Why?

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Question 1We have few boxes for children who question deeply. Growing up I recall being told that we do not ask God why. That provoked only one question in my mind. Why? This question has formed and molded me. The more deeply we question the more legitimate the answers. I questioned deeply if there was a God. I question deeply if that God is best understood in Jesus. I questioned deeply nuances of my faith. The questioner frustrates the answerer, and why shouldn’t they. You asked a question and they gave the answer. That’s it, right? Not for the questioner.

My middle daughter asked just the other day during morning devotional, “Dad, what if I don’t believe God is real”. She asks this question a lot, in different ways. Fortunately for her she’s not asking someone who just read about the answer or heard it in a lecture. I have breathed in this question and exhaled a journey of answers. She’s not asking a rookie questioner. You cannot hide the flame of questions under anything that it will not soon burn through, so I answer her. I answer be asking better questions. I help her to ask herself if there are other areas of her life that rely entirely on faith. I recall one morning when she said, “gravity”. I believe in gravity, dad. Question 3There are certainly more examples and she will find them as she questions. She didn’t learn an answer that morning more than she learned how to question well.

We have determined that the exceptional among us can ingest information and regurgitate it on command, which makes me wonder if the ability to recall information is the pinnacle of intelligence at all. Computers, with all their intelligence can only give you what you ask it too, so who is truly the most intelligent, the one regurgitating or the one provoking the regurgitation through asking the better question.

7 simple words that wreck world views

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truth 2“I don’t believe in God”, I hear it all the time. The reality is, we all believe in God, but many have assumed the divine role for themselves. I’ll often ask how they know what’s true. Some will suppose they can simply dismiss this question with a quick-witted quip of believing truth is “to each his/her own”. Believing truth is found by the person, within the person, and applied only to the person. “Do you believe that’s true for everyone”, I ask. 7 simple words that wreck this world view. You cannot escape objective truths. Objective truths exist, we all presuppose them daily, and they cannot originate from the individual and maintain objectivity.

Some will even admit believing in truth apart from God. When asked how they know things to be true, the answer always narrows to senses truthand reasoning. When asked how they know there senses and reasoning are valid, they generally recognize that it is by their senses and reasoning that their senses and reasoning are validated. Recognizing that to have major irreconcilable circularity, the next remark is often “Well, how do you know your sense and reasoning are valid”. Well, the answer is found outside of us, in God. God has communicated truth to the world in Jesus, and that communication is kept via the bible.

A God like me: Rethinking Easter

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The picture of a cowering Jesus in the garden and on the cross plugs awkwardly into the Jesus tradition. Stories of joyfully singing martyrs spilling their lives to follow Jesus appears to be a divergence from Jesus’ own experience, and that has always bothered me.Cup

All we know of Jesus life was His knowing that He came to die. The Gospels are littered with this reality. The very writing structure of Matthew, Mark, and Luke is moving the reader toward this event in Jerusalem. He rebukes Peter for attempting to stop it. He resists Satan’s temptation to have it happen differently. He spoke often of His hour, and He knew the time of His hour, or death, had come. He knew the Old Testament, so He even knew how it was going to happen and that it had to happen. It’s a fact that He stressfully agonized in the Garden. Bearing the weight of the world’s separation from God would be unimaginably agonizing, but I’m not convinced that at this pivotal moment, Jesus gets cold feet. If he does, at least how we’ve understood it, He becomes the biggest hypocrite in all of History, and that’s not the Jesus I know. That’s not the Jesus we need.

“We don’t need a God who is like us, we need one who is like God.”

What if the cup did “pass” as Jesus asked. We assume that “pass” means “not happen”, but the Greek expression “pass”, can also mean “to come and go quickly”. A person could spend a few days dying on a Roman cross, but Jesus death within six hours surprised the executioners into using methods to validate His death. Dying on a cross within six hours was astonishing. To add greater complexity, the author of Hebrews referring back to this time, implies that His garden prayer was indeed answered (Heb. 5:7). The cup, as the author of Hebrews suggests, did come and go quickly.

“In our attempt to connect Jesus to humanity, we tend to make Him too human.”

We move the reluctant savior to the cross and hear Him cry out to God asking why He has been forsaken. We have good intentions in humanizing Jesus. We want to portray a God like us, but I find little comfort in a God like me. Jesus is doing from the cross what He did in life, intentionally making sense of God’s communication to His people. He’s quoting Psalm 22. Later in this same Psalm we see a picture of crucifixion some hundreds of years before it was a Roman practice. Psalm 22 ends with a picture of the New World of humanity being in covenant with Jesus. The author solidifies this reality by encouraging the reader to see that “He has performed it”, or “It is finished”.

“We need a willing God, for an unwilling humanity to flourish.”

Wanting to hate Noah

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thCAOPT9UL3I walked into the theater ready to hate this movie, but I loved it. At so many of Aronofsky’s turns I was asking myself permission to hate now, but I never could. I could not believe that I’d sat in the back of the theater hoping to formulate a vile opinion all the while finding myself near tears at least twice during the story. Once in Noah’s spying out the savagery surrounding him, an animal appearing to be a goat or lamb was tossed to the virulent crowd. They tore and ate the beast before it even hit the ground and all I saw was Christ. Upon his return from this exploration, his wife made reference to “their” wickedness. Noah looks at her with a sort of shocked regret and says, “the evil of man is not just in them, it’s in us all”.

I was disappointed, not in Noah, but in me. How could so many in my circles much smarter, wiser, and learned than I proclaim such a spectrum of disdain for a movie that had brought me to tears. Maybe we were looking for different things. I didn’t go expecting a recitation of the first eleven chapters of Genesis in some liturgical display of literature, rather I went hoping to experience something a bit more human. We can find the woven themes of grace in Breaking Bad, Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Vampires, Zombies, and the like, but not here, not with what Aronofsky has done. And so it is, the three-letter stigmata of my being emerges, why? I’m struck by the ease of sway given to young Christians, maybe more specifically in academia, that seem to have merely a muted voice, if any unique voice at all to embrace as their own. They seem only to be able to regurgitate thoughts thought for them, and it isn’t simply in these circles but in the greater breadth of Christianity as well. The sort of do your secular vocation and we’ll do the intellectual heavy lifting. Thank you, but I believe I’ll carry my own bags.

God spoke, and one man’s obedience has brought life from death. That is the essence of Aronofky’s Noah, and I adore the story because that is the story of Jesus.

Stop moving the comma, and change the sentence

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thBY3W14RFI am often dumbfounded at attempts to achieve different results by essentially doing the same stuff. No matter our world, we are never going to get results we hope for by simply moving the comma. It looks like this. He guys, we were doing this, but now let’s do this differently.

 

It should look like this. Hey guys, we did this, let’s try that. I’ve been in the world of business and church, and I see it in both worlds at equally ridiculous levels. We want customers in our stores, so let’s take the over priced merchandise and dance around with it. It’s still over priced. Churches want to “reach” their community, so we form committees and focus groups that ask the wrong questions and come to the same grey and self-centered conclusions.

Sentences do not fundamentally change, when we move the comma. I’ll say it again. Sentences, do not fundamentally change when we move the comma. You simply change the emphasized area of the bad idea you’re perpetuating.

The art of hiding (People)

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Hiding“Let’s be honest, some people haven’t figured out the social part of social media.” A friend once debated whether to take a hiatus from social media or just delete a person that just made their skin crawl. “Hide them”, I said. It’s that simple, just hide them. We’re often in situations that we cannot just delete a person without some awkwardness to follow. I’ve hidden people for short periods of time, and I’ve some friends that have been hidden for a long time. They’re still friends, I just cannot watch so many train wrecks at once. I’m sure people have hidden me. Heck, I often annoy myself. Hiding someone is like walking away from a conversation at a party. You don’t really dislike the person, you guys are just different enough to annoy each other more often than not. Deleting a person is like telling someone to get out. That’s an awkward party moment and creates tension and division among friends you both probably Hiding 2share.

You deserve to be hidden when:

1- You’re constantly pessimistic.

2- Things that should stay in your head, come out your finger tips.

3- You’ve found a soap box, and you keep finding it, in every post.

“In hiding a friend or two, you’re simply sending them to their rooms to think about what they’ve posted.”

Dropping stones

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Throwing StonesFamilies fight, some much worse than others. They fight because they’re born into a community not of their choosing and because each person in this natural-born community is, well, a person and an individual with all the personality and life that comes with that. The only way I knew to deal with the tension of family when I was younger was to run away, and once I was far enough, I began casting stones. It took way too long to realize that God put me in my family to be a part of my family.

Christianity is no different it seems, and I wonder if we’re learning the lessons of family. Here’s the way it seems to work. Someone in the family does something bizarre. The group that’s appalled distances themselves, turns, and begins casting what amounts to social media stones. I get it. It’s safe and requires much less energy to throw a stone than to place it gently and thoughtfully into a mosaic.

How do we disagree and remain family?

1- You are family- We have to cast off the presumption that the bizarre behavior takes us out of our family bond. This is the presumption that fuels everything else. We think, “They did this or that, they must not be part of the family”. Get it wrong here, and nothing else matters.

2- Talk to, not about- If it’s big enough an issue to break unity, then it’s certainly big enough to get up the gumption to go to them and personally ask Stonesthem to explain.

3- It’s not all about you- Realize that you’re angry disconnection from family will not be worked out alone. My guess is people are following you, and often blindly and unquestioning.

4- PRIDE- We think giving up our stones is weakness. They hurt us or the family, and now we’ll show them. If God can put on the stench of humanity, I believe you and I can put on the stench of humility and concern for our family.

5- Resolve to stay family- Jesus stood his ground in the midst of spit, slaps, and nails.

“The only issue that breaks us, is the one we allow to.”

This is why you’re anxious

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thUC42X1VR“You’re not there yet.”

Telling someone the bible says not to be anxious in hopes of jarring them out of anxiety is like giving a lost person directions by simply telling them they’re not there yet. It’s true but it isn’t the whole story.

“It’s about volume control.”

Anxiety works on two controls. What’s possible and what’s livable. When you can cycle through a high amount of possible life outcomes and all are very unlivable in your world, you are going to have major life anxiety.

Imagine at birth the volume of possible outcomes is turned way down. As life progresses, that volume naturally increases. For some it increases rapidly and vividly. Some, because of media and personal influences and situation, can imagine an infinite number of life possibilities. This volume has become way to loud for them. Everyone hates me, what if this car crashes into us, every shadow is a monster, what if my heart stops beating, these are just a few examples.

At the same time, you have the volume of things you cannot bear to live with. These two work in unison to have us thinking, these are possibilities and I cannot bear the th4VNVPF9Athought of any of them being true.

“The music is too loud to dance.”

These two volumes cause us to dance through life in very different ways. If both volumes are very loud, I’m going to be anxious, angry, aggregated, fearful, reclusive, and immobile. If they are way to low, I’ll be careless, lazy, indifferent, sad, and lethargic.

“The great equalizer.”

Joy is found in life when we are balancing these two volumes with faith filled accuracy. The first volume to be adjusted is the livable volume. You have to begin to increasingly accept what life has to offer by knowing it’s making me a better person, it’s all for a reason, and eventually I will be able to help someone in my situation some day (Rom. 8:28, 2 Cor. 1:3-7).

 

 

Green God

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th86BW2XMNThe prospect of worlds end fascinates millions. The idea is so prevalent it’s become more of a presupposition for humanity, and we seem only to be left wondering how and when. Some say it just winds to a close, some say humanity will use it up, and other think Jesus is coming back to blow it up like the death star. So it boils down to it kills itself, we kill it, or Jesus does. So who cares?

If it winds to a close, then it’s rather pointless to care for it. If its destruction is at the hand of humanity, then your ultimate fix ends with ridding the Earth of humans. If Darth Jesus is coming back to blow it up, then you would want no attachment to the Earth what so ever because Jesus only blows up bad things.

A novel idea might be to stop consulting novels and novices for our ideas surrounding this issue. So, what does God say about the Earth? Well, He says it will last forever (Ps. 104:5, 148:6, Ec. 1:4). Wouldn’t it just make sense that Christians should out thYPT4TL9Wcare anyone on this eternal rock when it comes to caring for said rock. We believe he created it (Is. 45:18). We believe it will last forever. We believe it will be filled with his glory (Dan. 2:35). We might want to make it a priority to care for it. Not because it will dissolve like a salted snail if we don’t, rather because it honors the one we claim to worship.

Giving up lent for lent

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thJKHVXLAHBeginning Ash Wednesday, lent continues roughly 40 days up until Easter. Marked by giving up life snares, it can be a great time of self-evaluation. Here’s how you can totally miss the purpose of lent:

1- You could give up wrong things. It’s popular to quit social media for a season, and that’s no different during lent. To quit social media is to misunderstand what it is. A layer of communication, similar to the phone so many years ago. Stopping connecting with people may be counter intuitive to what lent is trying to produce in us. Further puzzling is the comment I’ve seen continually from those who’ve given up social media for a season, “Well, I’m back. It’s time for me to get caught up on what I missed”. I shouldn’t have to say much more on how absurd that is. You could certainly give up being a social media train wreck for lent.

2- You could resume what you gave up. At least in a “Business as usual” way. If it’s worth giving up for 40 days, my guess is it may be best to give up for a lifetime. I’m not certain I’ve completely understood giving up self-proclaimed snares with the expressed intent on picking them up again. If it’s an idol for you, give it up for good.

3- You could think lent is about chocolate. The 40 days of lent sort of represents Jesus’ obedient triumph over the 40 days of wilderness temptations, which eventually enables you and I to be more like Jesus. You could give up things without giving in to remembering Jesus. N. T. Wright has a wonderful devotion to carry you through lent entitle, “Lent for Everyone”. Don’t give up anything before you give in to knowing Jesus more deeply.

4- You could give up things totally. We think the cure for giving into things is to give up on things. You’re not Holy if you can quit eating cake. You’re Holy if you can eat it moderately. You typically see this behavior with alcohol. Those who’ve abused alcohol, find the answer to their abuse is abstinence. Ancient cultures like Greco-Roman’s looked at total abstinence on the same level as total drunkenness. Both were seemed immature and highlighted an immature lack of self-control.

I love lent as a time to reflect on being more like Jesus, but I’m just not comfortable with temporary sanctification. Make this lent season mean more than ever before by giving up some of your misconceptions of it.

Theological thumb twittling

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thGIFUWSQVAdam had a mission that Satan ruined (Gen. 3), and there came a time when the second Adam, Jesus, underwent similar enticement (Matt. 4, Rom. 5:12-21). Satan enticed Jesus to stop doing what Adam failed to do; have dominion, or be the King He was supposed to be (Gen. 1:27, Ps. 2), which would enable his posterity to subdue the Earth (Gen. 1:28, Rom. 8:16).

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record this witty and witless exchange of “God said this. No. God actually said this”, which is no less just like the Eden scene of Adam’s failure. We grasp feverously, and quite unsuccessfully at times, to make sense of these parallel scenes. First Satan wants Jesus to live (Matt. 4:1-4), then he wants Jesus to die (Matt. 4:5-7), and finally he wants Jesus to rule (Matt. 4:8-11). All true, and eventually happen, by God’s design not Satan’s.

Now that Jesus is King enthroned at the right hand of God (Eph. 1:18-23), the redeemed design for the world continues through the people of God as the spiritual posterity or children of God (Rom. 8:16). Enabled through the now all-encompassing and filling spirit of God (Gen. 4:6), we now become the mountain Kingdom that fills the Earth and never ends (Dan. 2:34-35, 44-45).

Here’s were most of us become theological thumb twittlers. We have no idea about what all that means for us right now. We suppose our only role in the story is to sit and wait for Jesus to come fix everything. God did fix everything, by obediently sacrificing Himself (Heb. 7). God didn’t die to give you His spirit, simply so you could have warm fuzzies about your lot in life and a date to fill in the first pages of your bible. No, He changed the entire nature of the “Holy Spirit” for a purpose, and that purpose is to finish what He started at that cross, having dominion and subduing the world, and will return to receive what His spirit wrought in the world through His children, a Kingdom fit for a King (1 Cor. 15:24-25). Most of us don’t believe this Theology, but most of us admit it with our life. It may be time to have our life and theology agree.

Kissing the son

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KissingMany Christians cannot answer the question, “What is Jesus doing now”, but it’s this very question that clues us into an accurate view of the King and His kingdom. Jesus became the faithful son as opposed to the unfaithful sons, Adam and Israel. In his faithfulness God enthroned Him as King of the world. In a perpetual display of His authority and God’s glory in enthroning Him, the world that Adam lost dominion over and whose posterity could not subdue, Christ gains dominion and begins His subduing reign at the right hand of God via His spiritual posterity.

The peace, or shalom, that Israel was supposed to bring to the world categorizes the very nature of His subduing effects. An accurate view of the King and His kingdom calls everyone, as the Psalmist does, to kiss the son lest He be angry. Kissing the son is a world viewing submission and admission to the rule of the King. Not submitting to His rule and taking refuge under His kingly protection, according to the psalmist, gets you wrathfully subdued. Not a place you want to be.

Moreover, we see all are being subdued. In what most would say to be a grand Kissing 2and concise portrait of the gospel, Paul says, “then comes the end, when He hands over the Kingdom to God the Father, when He has abolished all rule and authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet” (1 Cor. 15:24-25).

“How is this happening”, must be our next question. Jesus is raising us from the spiritual dead, giving us new life, a new heart, and the spirit of His son within us. The spirit of God which is making us and the world a different place. No matter how long it takes to repair the damage that was done to the world, the kings spirit in us is gradually accomplishing its reversal. Not until you believe this, will you have the rewardably active faith in and around your community that the king so longs to see.

Judas, whether aware of the depths of his treacherous mocking, mocks Jesus with His betraying Kiss in a show of superficial submission and hollow admittance that Jesus is indeed the king of psalm 2. Much like that of Caiaphas the high priest admitting that it would be better for one man to die for the people (John 11:29). So, one man did die for the people, and that one man rose to be King, worthy of our true and holy kiss. May we stop kissing the son in disbelief as Judas, lest He be angry.

Thank God for atheist do-gooders

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AtheistYou know that list of people you just “Cannot work with”? It may need to get a lot shorter. Recently, I shared a community outing experience that left one or two of my listeners wondering how I could work with an atheist. It’s easy. The same way I work with hyper-religious people. I remember that imperfect people are helping other imperfect people.

I’m left wondering what would we rather atheist do? If we’re angry because they are doing good things in their communities, would we be satisfied if they were doing bad things. Maybe we’re just so stunned that they’re doing good things that it cracks open the egg of our worldview and makes us take a deeper look inside. Is it completely inconsistent with their beliefs that they are doing good things in their community, I believe it is. Do I tell them that every time we help together? No.

Atheist1When do you suppose you’re going to get a chance to be around atheist in an influencing way? When they come to church? When you debate them on-line? At work where talking religion is generally taboo? I’m a Jesus follower, so I’m going to be about doing good things, and atheist hands can callous just as easily as mine as we help other imperfect people.

 

Rethinking tithe

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tithe“75% to 85% of church budgets go to staff and buildings, but what if it didn’t?”

In his frustration, a pastor once told me the day was coming when even volunteers will be paid in the church. Every mavericky bone in my body wanted to challenge him to lead by example, stop taking a salary. So I decided to do just that. As a pastor and church starter, I will never receive a salary from my church, nor will anyone in leadership. There will also never need to be a building “committee” to build the gym that every church seems to need to be holy because we will recreate space that already exists in and around our community. I’ll work right along side those I Shepard. Maybe a teacher, mechanic, firefighter, lawyer, dishwasher or something of the sort.

“Pass the plate, so we can pass the plate.”

When people give, as no doubt the bible does teach, it will be intentionally directed toward the community and what the community has told us that it needs. There are so many doing so much good for the city, and we want to support them to fulfill their mission. Someone asked me at a recent conference how I managed to do all these things when it takes them 20 hours a week to prepare for a sermon. My first thought was “Really!”. It takes you 20 hours to prepare? It takes you 20 hours to prepare for a 40 minute sermon that will be forgotten 30 minutes later. I’m not certain that’s a good investment of time, and I’m also unsure you’re maximizing your resources.

“Get ready for deeper declines in giving.”

Most research shows tithe is declining to all time lows, and I’m inclined Givingto think its more than the typical scapegoat of the “Bad economy”. Maybe, people are becoming more skeptically exhausted with how we’ve financially operated. You see, everyone knows the church is supposed to be a bright spot in the city, yet we are often too strapped with burdensome staff wages and building costs to actually light up anything but the gym on Wednesdays.

I’m not so naive to think this is for everyone, but it is for me. It’s an expression of church in the ever-growing city sector that brings great glory to Jesus and violates no orthodoxy. It’s quite simply an expression of my beliefs. Which, we all do express.

On-line verses On-campus?

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OnlineEducation is complex, but staples to a well learned student persist. They persist in the ever-growing arguments pitting online and on campus modes of educating against one another. I’ve done both, and I’ve found most argue for their chosen path seated from their favorite recliner of experience, including me. So, I’ll attempt to explore this topic from a love seat.

“Don’t miss this!”

Learning at its core, is up to the student. It is truly that simple. If the student wants to learn, they will. From the back of the room, I’ve watch a majority of students pass the class time tooling around on Facebook, and I’ve seen them totally engaged. I’ve completed less than the bare essentials required from an online class, and I’ve taken time to dive into deeper study. I used to devour leadership books, not because I was in an MBA course but because I was tired of being a poor leader.

“Environments make a difference.”

I’ve been in classes that were so poorly administrated that I had to force my self to a greater attention. That’s a little to kind. I have literally had to keep myself from plunging out a window. That’s better. Not just due to the teaching, rather the entire discontinuity of the entire class. I’ve been in others that I didn’t want to leave. I’ve taken online classes that excited my further study, and I’ve had others that I wasn’t sure what was what and were to start and end.

“The destruction of scholarship?”

Online certainly destroys scholarship, right? No, poor scholars and poor students destroy scholarship. I’ve been in classes, both on campus and online, that left me wondering if we were all reading the same book, and others that left me amazed at the deep dialogue that occurred.

“Intimacy forgone.”

Online isn’t as intimate as the classroom, right? No, intimacy is at the whim of the student and teacher. I’ve stood in a line to speak to a scholar after a lecture just to give up with other students as “that guy” in front of us has to discuss everything they’ve ever learned in life. In both cases, intimacy generally came from email. Certainly there is more peer-to-peer interaction, right? Sure, once the hours lecture is over, and the 5 students who ask question that were answered in the lecture 30 minutes ago, that leave just enough time to stand in line to gain some intimate time with the scholar and peers, oh wait.

Are you a stifling leader?

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Micro“Sitting in a closed garage with the engine running.”

That is micro-managing leadership. I remember thinking, “Is that what I act like”, the first experience I had with a micro-manager after having been one myself. The micro-manager has two fatal flaws. They fundamentally do not believe in or care for their people. Oh, it may seem different on the surface, but just underneath is a different story. When you don’t believe in or care for your people, here’s what you’ll do:

1- You will not allow them to make you look bad. If you do actually give them the lead on something that matters, you’ll hover over their every move to make sure they do it just like you.

2- You’ll never move past how the weather is. You live in the world of superficial niceties because they only exist to get what you need done, so you can look good for that next promotion.

3- You’ll have a general pessimism about what they can never seem to get done. What do your personnel meetings look like. Are they always about who stinks and how to get rid of them, or who’s an all-star and how to reproduce them. Both extremes are self-serving. You should know all your people’s strengths and weaknesses, and you should know where you hope they will be next in their progress as humans, not just your worker drones.

4- You’ll be generally disgruntled most of the time. Why wouldn’t you be. You’re the only one who knows how to do anything right, right?

They became leaders because things they could control were done well, but they aren’t quite sure why everyone isn’t just like them when it comes to leading others. So there they sit, leading in a closed garage with the engine running. It’s only a matter of time…

99.9% Average

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Average“Chances are you’ll die, well, not so famous.”

It’s likely the world isn’t going to miss you. It’s safe to say History books will be written without you. These may not be the grandiose terms we day-dream in, but the reality is we’ll all die just having been average people.

“What we can be is above average, well, average people.”

Fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, friends, acquaintances, workers, and the like, all impact someone. Research continues to tell us that deep lasting impact happens in small communities, from 3 to 12 people.

“Impact should be seen in concentric circles.”

I influence and impact my children more deeply than my friends, but I impact my friends more deeply than the guy at the convenience store. We are all connected, but we are more tightly connected the further into our circles we travel.

People travel in and out of the circles, and that’s normal. Whether its children heading off to college, coworkers changing careers, or friendships fading on the horizon, there is continual movement between the circles of influence. Most of our relationships are just average people living life together. What seems to make us above average in this quest, is realizing and pouring ourselves unselfishly into these communities of influence.

Prodigal Father

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father“I forgive you.”

I wanted to mean them, but those whispered words I didn’t really mean. The moment didn’t allow me to marinate in the pain he allowed to fester over the years. I simply held his hand and whispered I forgive you father. I forgive you for a wasted life, unconcerned about anyone but you. How does one man squander so many blessings? After leaving that night, it wasn’t but a few hours later that I received the call that he was dead. A man who would, in the limited time I knew him, speak so highly of a firm handshake, had no firmness left in his hands. At forty-three, he hadn’t just drank himself to death, he had loved himself to death.

“Father’s forgive father’s.”

It wasn’t until I grew into my on fatherhood that I could begin to experience a real forgiving of him. Forgiveness doesn’t forget, rather it remembers to forgive more deeply. We’ve all heard it, I forgive but cannot forget. There is a partial truth there. We are creatures designed to remember. It’s how we remember that reveals something about us.

“We’re all dying fathers.”

I often see myself lying there dying having squandered my fatherhood, and I certainly have done just that on many occasions. I’ve often allowed myself to be carried away with me. Comparing our worth and excellence as fathers to fathers around us always leads to a distorted view of your own fatherhood. Somehow this allows us to see ourselves as doing and being so much more than they did and were. It’s not until we see our fatherhood in the shadow of Christ that we truly see ourselves as missing the fatherly mark more often than not. We’re able then to run out to meet the prodigal fathers around us with true forgiveness. Knowing that Jesus grace has indeed ran out to lavish us with love and mercy, we can do the same.

Under Construction

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construstuction“It’s how you react that defines you.”

You know that person that just, “Tells it like it is”. They are, in their self proclamation, “Just keeping it real”. I can spot them easily because I was that person, and I am still at times. When I see this, I cannot help thinking, “You’re keeping it real alright. Real awkward”, and worse still, they keep it real distant and impersonal. I was the center of my world as a young leader, but having the benefit of spending time with solid leaders throughout my career, that began to change. Humanity is flawed, and we are uniquely designed to recognize the flaws. What we fail to realize is that the greatest flaw of all is that we fail to recognize our own first.

“Recognize the journey of others.”

Mentoring is not something we generally walk away from thinking,”Now that’s how you mentor a person”. My flashes in the mentoring pan generally came from unexpected moments. Likewise, in being mentored, the greatest wisdom I walked away with were in those unscripted moments. The reality of your leadership is scripted and unscripted, and we have to embrace both to be successful and prepared to develop others. In these scripted and unscripted moments, we are driven to wisdom guided by relentless care for others. The leader who is genuinely and uniquely developing others, not only wants that person to experience the joy and fulfillment of success, but they do so a part from their own wants and desires. Developing others requires you to see and value them and their unique journey far above how it fits into your own.

“Care like you are cared for.”

In explaining what true care and love for others really looks like, Paul uses Jesus’ love for His people as an example (Eph. 5:25). Jesus gave His life for us, and in turn asks us to do the same for Him and others. Jesus certainly loves us just as we are, but loves us too much to allow us to stay the same. Developing others isn’t easy, it’s down right difficult, but we do so because we care for them. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

Why Genesis 4:7 is the saddest verse in the bible

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Macbeth“Why so angry.”

I cringe reading it. Left grasping for reasons his sacrifice and ultimately himself are unacceptable to God, Cain is obviously angry. God asks Cain why he’s so angry about the rejected sacrifice. I mean it’s an easy equation as God recounts it. Cain, do good and be accepted. There’s something in me that sees a small helpless child that wants to please his father, yet fails at every attempt. The father says son, just do good and I’ll accept you. The tear blinded child shouts that he’s trying and nothing is working. The father, flippantly shrugs. Oh well, better luck next time. Like Macbeth, we scrub the blood from our hands at a furiously pointless pace. 

“Hmm, do I bring the good corn or the bad?”

I’m amazed at those who so easily demand that Cain chose not to bring his best as if he were in a moment of wrestling over which corn to bring. What! Listen, God is speaking audibly to these folks, and it hasn’t been long since He’s shown his power against the manipulative serpent. Is it possible, sure, but does it fit with the rest of the story? I wish it were that easy, but tragically it’s not. Luke writes of Jesus saying that unless we repent we will perish outside of the Kingdom of God (Luke 13:3). That’s all well and God, and even Cain could rejoice at such news. Luke goes on to explain that Peter believed repentance was a gift from God (Acts 8:24). Paul says something similar to Timothy (2 Timothy 2:25). Luke again makes it clear the repentance is a gift granted or not granted by God (Act 11:18).

“Oh God, change my mind!”

Repentance is a fancy word for changing your mind for good. We are called, like Cain, to change our minds about God, but like Cain we cannot unless God grants it. Reflecting on life, I remember being angry like Cain. Angry that I keep “doing” the right things but no change occurs. It wasn’t until, by God’s grace, that I realized his grace in owing me nothing. He doesn’t owe me forgiveness. Justice is occurring without God’s forgiveness. If all humanity died apart from God, justice would be satisfied because we all deserve to live eternally separated from God because of Adam’s and our sin. If just one person received mercy the likes of forgiving their offence against God, God would be the most merciful God imaginable, but He does much more than that, He has shown mercy on millions.

Why abortion was an option

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sadAs a teenager, the culmination of familial and societal eyes glare deep. I was a statistical norm in relation to teenage promiscuity. Resoundingly, we knew we must keep the muse of our action in whispers alone, and a baby doesn’t whisper, it screams everything you think you’re hiding from. Had the whispers shouted into life, quieting the cry was all I knew. I would have become like those I’m suppose to hate as a Christian, but I don’t hate them because I am them, and I was born in a spiritual state worse even than those who’ve chosen to quiet those cry’s.

“Forgiveness is infinite.”

Precisely this reality drives motives to save life. There are those whose life, like mine, could not be interrupted for life to emerge. While life with that guilt, suppressed or engaged, is unthinkably difficult, the greatest life we silenced was Christ’s. Born an enemy of God, God became like us to die for us, all that we’ve done and will do. That I never aborted, doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have. It doesn’t mean that I, as all, didn’t take the life of the savior of the world. Unique in our expression of sin, we are entirely similar in the realty of it.

“Status updates don’t save lives. Lives save lives.”

I wasn’t ready to live for anyone but me, and quite truthfully, it’s a continual struggle we all face. The past cannot be changed, but it can be forgiven. I’ve asked a thousand forgiveness’ for past blunders. Lost in the pain that persists at times, I’m fueled to pour my life’s learned mistakes into those around me.

How I nearly killed my wife

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thBGL1AGHGBlame could rest on culture, but what purpose has blame served a gasping victim. I cut my teeth in a worldview, farther reaching than any one region, that would demand wives’ identities be servile to their husband’s. In fact, nearly consumed by them. Man was king and not only was she not queen, I’d made my wife the court jester. The audacity of Jesus’ message in the 1st century was largely the ridiculous reversal of what Kings are supposed to do. Kings are supposed to require the life and service of those they rule, right?

“Kings and Queens die to give life.”

Jesus did just the opposite. The King that gave His life and service for those He loved, until the very end. In so doing, birthed the spirit of Christianity. I noticed changes in my wife over the years, but it wasn’t until I realized we hadn’t become one flesh, the two of us became my flesh. I had absorbed her creativity, passion, zeal, and fervor, and consumed it. The vivid realization, by God’s grace, that I was actually living with and married to another real life human being, created in God’s image and redeemed into Christ’s, was the arresting reality causing my grip to lesson.

“Two lungs breathing.”

She’s still learning to breathe again, and so am I. We are one, and I almost killed half of us, which was killing both of us. I hadn’t just sinned against my wife, but God Himself. Letting her up for air seemed most certainly like weakness. In reality holding her under showed the greatest of fear and weakness. Thinking I saw the reflection of my crown in the water as I dutifully held her under, was in reality, the dim view of her crown beneath the water.

When casseroles eat the chef

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“Humiliation isn’t a private affair.” 

What sports fan can forget Terrell Owens scoring on the Cowboys and choosing to celebrate by running to mid field in the center of the star. A few plays later when Emmitt Smith rushes for a touchdown, he then carries the ball out and spikes it on the star. Just a few plays after that, Owens scores and runs to the star again, but this time he is tackled by George Teague before his celebration, which erupts into a team brawl. Why, because Owens was attempting to humiliate the Cowboys.

“Only God(s) can be humiliated.”

Jesus turned the “eye for an eye” thinking on its head (Matt. 5:38-39), when He taught his listeners to turn the other cheek if they were slapped. We think in our culture the slap is the issue, but Jesus is saying humiliation is the issue. In what is known as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus turns our thinking upside down concerning humiliation. The entire sermon is full of “This is what you thought, but this is what you should think”. In Jesus’ culture, and even to this day, the left hand is not typically used in interpersonal contact. The left hand was considered unclean for various personal hygienic reasons, so a second slap is most likely a back hand. In Jesus’ culture to slap was a public humiliation, but to back hand was the pinnacle of disrespect and humiliation.

“Humiliation begs for justice.” 

It takes a certain view of ones self to experience humiliation. The more askew the view of self, the greater humiliation experienced. It’s not about thinking more or less of ourselves. It’s about thinking accurately of ourselves. An accurate view of ourselves realizes our place in this order; God, others, and me. An inaccurate view of self realizes the opposite; Me, others, and God. When we are at the pinnacle of the humiliation pyramid, there will be no end to offenses. When Jesus is at the pinnacle, He becomes the end of humiliation for us by the ultimate humiliation, His death at the hands of humanity. Imagine a casserole eating the chef, and you begin to grasp at the ridiculousness of it all.    

“Humiliation is an identity crisis.”

Owens was attacking the very identity of the Cowboys, but in reality it was just football and just a patch of field. In the immaturity of our mentality we are often humiliated because we do in fact have a mental category for the incredulity of offending God. Unfortunately, we are assuming ourselves to be such a God. When we allow God to be God, then we are free to be humanity as it was intended. We are free to gladly turn the other cheek because the only one being humiliated is the striker…

 

Two words that confused time and everything in between

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ConfusedI suppose as long as I’ve been a student of the bible, consistency seemed to be a necessity. Hence the very name of this blog. We’re all a bit inconsistent in this or that area. I’m still inconsistent in many areas of life, but I’m consciously working on those areas. Some days I work harder than others. Some days, if I’m honest, I don’t care to work at all. In the world of studying the bible, there are two words that seem to garner a consistent inconsistency; literal and generation. These aren’t the only ones, just the ones that have done some of the most harm to proper theology.

“That literally means something symbolic.”

I recall speaking to a professor once who was convinced the creation story couldn’t have happened in six literal days because it takes so long to name animals. Now, I’m not concerned about debating a topic that’s unwinnable from either angle, but if you’re going to make claims at least try to make as consistent a claim as possible. Tempted was I to ask, “So the God that you just admitted created everything, out of nothing, cannot have a human name animals in a day”. There is an even deeper problem just beneath the surface. I thought, “You do believe Adam was real and that he named the animals”. No doubt he and many would quickly agree, “Oh yes”. The question is how do they know that. Well, the bible just informed them. It also told them the time it took. So, how did you know when to turn the “literal” meter on and then off? I’m not advocating right or wrong, this point or that, just the blatant inconsistency of it all. My favorite is the whirlwind of inconsistency in understanding the book of Revelation and how some crown themselves the literal Kings of literal interpretation while explaining the book of Revelation with airplanes and nuclear bombs. I’m always tempted to hand them Josephus’ “Wars of the Jews”, and say “You mean like this”.

“When this actually meant this and not that.”

Generation, (Gulp)! The word I’ve seen stump some of the most highly educated scholars in the room. I recall being in class and asking, with no malicious intent, what Jesus meant when he said, “This generation will not pass away until all these things take place”. You could have heard a pin drop because everyone waited to have it all made sense of. Jesus said this as He ended the explanation of the Tribulation from a question asked Him by His disciples, “Tell us when these things will happen, and what will be the sign of your coming, and the end of the age”. They want to know as every one does, “When Jesus, when”. Jesus looks them as straight in their eyes as He does ours in scripture and says that this generation will still be around when it happens. Two things happen at this point; one, you close your bible and walk to the window. Huh, looks like all is still intact, couldn’t have happened, and two, the “Emperor” of explanation is reborn, “Already, not yet”. I like to call that “Cake, and eat it too”. This grand explanation comes from how we saw Jesus makes sense of the Old Testament. He was the true Adam, Israel, King, etc. So those events happened but were waiting to truly happen in Jesus. No problem, right? I’m not quite convinced that Jesus left that much undone before it was all over. I’ve seen some split up the predictions and place them in the “This” generation basket and the “That” generation basket. I’ve heard others make sense of it by claiming it to be a future generation rather than this generation, like Jesus said. Neither are satisfying and neither operate like Old Testament prophecies operated. Ever wonder why many believe the temple in Jerusalem has to be rebuilt? So it can be destroyed to fit this text, that’s how. You ever wonder why it’s not there now? Because it was destroyed, just like Jesus said, by the Roman empire in that generation, like Jesus said. Let me make a bold prediction here…

“You will NEVER see another temple on that mount because the true temple of God, Jesus Christ, rendered it obsolete and unnecessary by being the true high priest sacrificing the truest and purest of all sacrifices, Himself.” 

How to know for sure you’re NOT a Christian

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Confused“Habitual actions are an index of character.”

In a later letter to Ephesus, John encourages them to remember that if you make sin your business, it’s business will be you (1 John 3). There is no neutral gear for humanity, we’re either getting worse or better. Our life is seen in patterns from a distance. Patterns of righteousness or lawlessness. That’s not to say the righteous don’t do bad things, or the lawless don’t do good things, because they do. After the fall, the world goes from bad to worse, quickly. Lamech even sings a song recounting his murderous ways (Gen. 4:23). Eventually it even overtakes the covenant line of Seth as they began taking daughters from those that weren’t apart of the Godly line of Seth. God destroys the world and starts over with a ready-made family, Noah and his clan. Abraham eventually comes from the line of Shem, Noah’s son, which eventually gives birth to the nation of Israel as God promised (Gen. 12:2-3). Israel, like the others before, follows a worsening pattern toward lawlessness. If an honest look at the patterns in your life are increasingly more lawless or Godless, chances are you’re not a Christian.

“My Lord and my God.”

There’s really not a scenario where denying Jesus as Lord and God allows room for your still being a Christian. Doubting Thomas is etched into our minds from his having to see and touch the wounded and resurrected Christ before believing. Thomas makes the boldest statement about Christ of anyone up to this point in scripture. My Lord and my God. My Kurios, a Greek rendering of the ever-known Yahweh. The covenant name of God. My Theos, God divine. God the creator, used by Moses in the opening line of all scripture. What’s striking in this scene is the dual acceptance. Not only does Thomas accept what Jesus and others had been saying, but Jesus accepts him accepting it. To deny Jesus as God creator and covenantal lover of His people, is to deny Christianity. 

“Christianity is spelled G-R-A-C-E.”

Because of Adam’s disobedience, we are born into a cosmic war with God. In our natural state we have only one enemy, God, and there is nothing we can do to satisfy God.  Even if we did do something that would seem good enough to make peace with God, it only acts to condemn us more because we are disobedient from the inside out. Christ makes peace with God for us, apart from anything we do, and precisely because of Christ making peace, we begin to act like peace has been had. Humanity is on two roads; at birth we’re headed away from God, and at rebirth we are headed toward Him. Thinking we can turn the car around ourselves is as bold as thinking we could have satisfied God’s wrath on the cross for ourselves. We cannot because we, unlike Christ, are a blemished sacrifice and an impure priest. Dallas Willard said of Grace and effort, “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning”. To believe there is anything from your hand that makes peace between you and God, is the denial of grace, and you’re probably not a Christian.

“Trust Jesus when He said He was God. If He wasn’t, nothing else He said matters and there is no grace for Him to give.”

 

Lasting change

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Another New Year is upon us, and with it millions of resolutions. Resolutions are a Self Developmentdeclaration of self development in which we resolve to do somethings a little more or somethings a little less. Research shows that most resolutions fail within a few months. The reason may be that if it were that important to us, we would have changed before the new year. That which is truly important to us we tend to change along the way. Change happens when it’s to uncomfortable to stay the same. Self development and lasting change may be more about what we have become comfortable with.

“An uncomfortable attitude.”

In his book, “Executive Presence”, New York Times best selling author Harrison Monarth says that attitude is the fundamental element of change. In it he says, “To round out what makes up our understanding of what makes up an attitude, consider that attitudes can consist of up to three elements: cognitive (our thinking), emotional (how we feel about something), and behavioral (the actions we display)”. Monarth says you must have the right attitude to achieve your goals. I would add that you have to have the right attitude to even set adequate goals.

“What shall we do?”

In Luke 3:8, John challenges those around him not to simply talk like they were different, rather act like it. His words made it to uncomfortable to stay the same, and so they ask “Then what shall we do”. He gives several specific answers to their questions in verses 10-14 of Luke chapter 3, but the reality of what he was challenging them to do was to think about others before yourself. This challenge to change and self development a midst great inner conviction now turned to John. In the next few verses Luke explains that the people were in wonderment and expectation regarding John. Was he the Messiah? John realizes it’s time to take the long awaited back seat when he utters the words that must become reality for us all, “I am not”.

“Self development is lifelong.”

As leaders, we cannot be simply fixed on our own self development. We must be fixed on everyone’s. The leader doesn’t find that exhausting but exhilarating. This new year grasp tightly the reigns of development in yourself and others. Make it your business to know your people so well that you know what their next step of development should be. Whether it’s yourself or someone else, no one can develop a person they don’t know. Learn to love self development.

“Learn to love where you’re at, and where you’re going.”

What this dad teaches his daughters about being a woman

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Woman

I’m a father, and a guy. So what do I know about being a woman? Not as much as my wife, I can assure you, but enough to help my daughters understand what God says about being a woman.

1- Grow up!

Not into perfection, but continual maturity. Perfection goofs up and then hides it. Maturity goofs up and admits and grows from it. Create an atmosphere of forgiveness and acceptance. Don’t expect them to keep a moral compass if you keep yours on the shelf. Dad and daughter have to be growing together. No one has arrived, but we are continuing to arrive. She’s learning to be a woman, and I’m learning how to guide her as I am still learning aspects of being a man.

2- Young lady, you are more than a rib!

Who can escape the embedded and biblically wrong understanding of the “rib” in the creation story. It’s a cultural suggestion that women are less than men, and find their identity in a man. WRONG, a thousand times wrong! This Hebrew word is only used as “rib” in the creation story and once in Daniel 2:10. It most often means “side”, and by most often, I mean in Genesis too. There are two covenantal elements you don’t want to miss. Adam was put to sleep, like Abraham in Genesis 15, and a “side” of Adam was taken to make Eve. Remember again in Genesis 15 when Abraham cut the animals in two “sides”. It’s the same idea. This is covenant language, and the reality of a sleeping Adam cut into two covenant pieces, is a covenant scene that has nothing to do with a rib.

3- My daughter has a first name and it’s not O-S-C-A-R.

We must stop confusing authority with chauvinism. Adam named Eve, not simply because Eve couldn’t come up with a good one. Adam named Eve, because he was under God’s authority to do so. God named Adam, Israel, John, and Jesus. Jesus and His disciples were always being questioned about whose “name” they were doing this or that in. The disciples and Jesus were doing miracles in the name of or by the authority of the father. God presents Himself, among other things, as father and husband throughout the bible. Name speaks of authority. Listen closely here… authority has more to do with the authorities than those under it. God is the only adequate example of true authority. True authority is protective, patient, loving, kind, forgiving, freeing, and thoughtful

4- Don’t teach her to just do the opposite.

The answer to being thought of wrongly and oppressed is not to think of wrongly and oppress. The answer to getting a speeding ticket for going 60 in a 45 isn’t to go 30 in a 45. The answer for male chauvinism isn’t female chauvinism. The answer to understanding true womanhood, isn’t in just doing the opposite. So if men supposedly rule the world, the answer isn’t to simply turn it over to women. In so doing, we both miss the reality that God is ultimately in charge, and we’re designed to show His glory to the world in the way He created us.

5- Teach her how Jesus loved women.

That sounds sort of creepy, but it’s true. Eve is a shadow of the church, the true Adam’s true wife. The church is cast as the woman in the marital relationship. Esther and Deborah are types of Christ, just like all the guys. Rahab and Ruth are big time bloodline players. Gabrielle didn’t appear to a virgin Joseph, though he did appear to John, who was punished for unfaithful disbelief. Women were the first to see the resurrected Jesus. Some of Jesus closest friends were women. Women were extremely active in the young churches spread in the 1st century, and this young church suffered mightily at the hand of Rome because of its high view of women.

6- She’ll find joy in being who she was designed to be.

No, I don’t mean cleaning windows and ovens at her husband’s house. Let’s get this out-of-the-way. If you’re reading the same bible I do, the ladies we are encountering aren’t the Housewives of Jerusalem. Isaac’s wife Rebekah was a harder worker than most men today. Esther barged into the Kings court like a boss despite the potential of execution. Deborah was, as Judges 4:4 reminds us, a Prophetess and a wife, and before you think her role as Prophetess didn’t take ultimate precedence over her role as wife, would you say the same about Samson. Samson’s order of loyalty continues to be on display for us in scripture. He wasn’t loyalty to his Lord first. Subsequently he lost his hair, eyes, freedom, and ultimately his life because of it.

“Dad’s, raising your daughters to see Jesus as just another chauvinist or to find their identity in their femininity apart from Jesus both end up robbing her of joy.”

We are what we say

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Communication“If you’re alive, you’re communicating.”

We take 17,000 to 23,000 breaths a day. The majority of those breaths take little to no thought. Communication is a lot like breathing. We can control it, but most of it happens without any thought. The heart is the muscle that controls our communication. John Maxwell says in his book Winning with People, “Hurting people hurt people and are easily hurt by them”. Have you ever hurt someone or been hurt by someone in a way that didn’t involve communication? Chances are no. Remember, not communicating communicates a message of its own.

“We are what we communicate.”

Matthew recounts one of the more tense moments in Jesus ministry in Matthew 12:22-37 when some were communicating that Jesus was really a bad guy doing good things. Jesus took this opportunity to help those around understand that we are what we say and do, and what we say and do reveals a lot about us. Jesus said communication starts from within (Matt. 12:34). He went on to say it reveals who we are (Matt. 12:35), and that we are responsible for our communication (Matt. 12:37). Wise communication isn’t just about what we say, it may be more about who we are. 

“We aren’t the only communicators in the room.”

Having done countless interviews, I learned a valuable lesson about communication. People will tell you who they are, if you just listen. We wear our passions on the edge of our heart, and a listening ear is soothing to the hurting. A leader learns the art of active listening. James encouraged his readers to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19). When those around us communicate to us, they are telling us a lot about the person they are, and we must learn to love listening. Active and thoughtful listening drastically increases your chances of responding wisely.

“Communicating wisely.”

You’re going to communicate countless times this week. At times it will be smooth and effortless, and at other times it’s going to be choppy and challenging, but our goal is wise communication. Solomon teaches us a lot about wise communication. He said the wise communicator is a calm communicator (Prov. 15:1-2). He said the wise communicator is a listening communicator (Prov. 18:13), and he said the wise communicator is so invested in others that they speak right words at right times (Prov. 25:11-12).

“Communication is the life breath of relationships, and taking time toward wise communication is well worth the investment.”

Daddy, what do your tattoos mean?

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tattooDaughter: “Daddy, why do you have tattoos?”

Daddy: “They make sense of my passions.”

Daughter: “What do they mean?”

Daddy: “Well, ‘freedom’ across my stomach describes my core desire to be free, which I am only in trusting Christ. The one down the back of my right arm says in Arabic ‘evil will depart’ to remind me at the right hand of God sits Christ the second Adam who has and is subduing and ruling over the world as King, and that rule through His spirit working in His people is overcoming evil. The infinity symbol on my other arm speaks to the infinite image of God in us as human. We were built for eternity with God, but we are born heading for an eternity without Him unless we trust Jesus to make peace between us and God. The 5150 on my arm stands Jeremiah 51:50, where in we see the vengeance of God for His people against the destroyer Babylon, and that in the New Covenant, Israel is the substance of the Babylonian shadow because they destroyed the true first-born, Jesus. The nations, including Israel, are God’s New Covenant people, the true Israel. The justice and respect symbols on my calves remind me that God is Just without respect to persons, and that His justice must be satisfied. We were born law breakers. If God just let us off the hook, He himself is a law-breaker, but there is no law against taking our place as law breakers. That’s what Jesus did for us. Joshua, written down the side of my right leg reminds me of the great warrior Joshua who would have faced down the entire armada of enemies in their promised land by himself if need be, and how Jesus, who was the true Joshua warrior did have to face down those enemies alone, and won the victory for His spiritually captive world.”

Daughter: “Did they always mean those things?”

Daddy: “No sweetheart. The greatest reminder of all is that they once reflected my exchanging the truth of God for a lie, but by His grace and mercy, they have been redeemed.”

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Why you cannot just tear up the naughty list

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Naughty“Jesus didn’t tear up the naughty list, He took your place on it.”

Santa isn’t the only one with a naughty list, God has one too, but God’s list is complete with every human to have ever lived. How did they get there? You’re born on that list. You can generally do enough counteracting good to get back on Santa’s nice list. That doesn’t work for God’s list because His rule says being born on that list also makes you unable to do anything to get off of it. Even if you could manage to somehow get off the list, someone has to fill that spot on the naughty list in your place. God cannot just overlook naughtiness because that would make God naughty for not following His own rules for naughtiness which would make Him not God, and that’s not possible. You see, Jesus became naughty for us. God then saw you in Jesus’ spot on the nice list. If you were going to try to work your way off of God’s naughty list, you’d be working forever and ever. Jesus took that punishment for you, and gave you His reward for being on the nice list. Jesus didn’t leave us on that list like we deserved, He erased your name and wrote His name in its place.

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Pain discovers humanity

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Hurting“Pain reminds us of human frailty.”

We’ve all dealt with the pains of life, in its varied forms and intensities. The more people you know, the more pain you’ve seen. The cosmic irony of humanities purpose is found in the midst of pain. I type this with my six-year-old son nestled on my lap from yet another sickness. He’s been sick on and off for the past two years. What do you say when your son says, “Dad, I don’t want to be sick to death”. I volunteer at the YMCA in South Minneapolis in a gym of Somali young men. We don’t talk much until there’s a near fight, but in those moments they listen to everything I say. Some of my best conversation came in between two potential brawlers. Comfort is what we want, but the tension is what we need. It’s what we need to come to the end of our humanity.

“We become most human in comforting others in pain.”

Conflict brings us together. After 15 years of marriage, I can honestly say it was not all roses, but in the midst of our arguments early on, we found out who we were. We grew more in love. We learned quickly that marriage couldn’t be healthy and successful without our trusting Jesus to put it all back together. I’ve gone through more pain in life than I care to recall, but through all the pain, the hurt, the loss, the failures, the shattered dreams, it was the comfort of Jesus that took the shattered pieces of pain, and put me back together. The reason I care for people, is because I was first cared for (2 Cor. 1:4). Life is painful, but we all share commonality in that pain. All those challenging people you cannot stand, I guarantee you’re in their life for a reason, and I further guarantee that spite all the differences, when you get to know them you’ll share some of the same pains.

“Together, we get closest to our design. Together, we become most human.”

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Living in, not against the current

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FishFor someone whose fished in both rivers and lakes, they’ll tell you there are some big differences. There are differences for the fish as well. The river fish is in constant tension with the current. This lifestyle of tension against the current can change the fish so much that it is actually classified as a completely different type of the same kind of fish. Some in the fishing community say you can even taste the difference due to this constant tension of current. The fish is essentially changed from the inside. Fish do not necessarily fight the current, as much as they use the current. That’s were we can make our mistake in life. We will become exhausted if we are living against the current rather than with it.

“Life’s current isn’t something we fight against as much as we flow with.”

Some of us have been faced with challenges in life that change us from the inside. Changes we wish hadn’t happened at times, and at other times we’re thankful for. We spend much of our time trying to get back up-stream before the current was so bad or down stream to where the current doesn’t exist, but the reality is that God has you in the current of life you’re in for a reason. It’s really up to us to discover and nuance the specifics. No one can know those but you; however, the Apostle Paul offers the overarching explanation as to why you and I are who and where you are.

“Learn the current’s pattern, and then teach it to someone else.”

Paul opened one of his letters to the Corinthians by explaining God as a suffering comforter, and then quickly transitions that to his hearers (2 Corinthians 1:4-5). You see, we aren’t designed to be the end of God’s grace completely, rather we are designed to be a conduit for grace. You’ve heard the saying, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Well, Paul says that and then adds another piece to the puzzle. Paul says for us not just to make lemonade, but help others make it too. You and I aren’t the first fish to swim against the current and we won’t be the last, but we can be different. We can be who we were designed to be by excepting and cherishing the comfort of God during the worst of life’s currents and help others do the same.

I am, so I will

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Inclusion“God loves unpredictably in the unpredictable.”

Matthew paints one of my favorite moments in the Bible in Matt. 8:5-13. It’s the story of Jesus and the centurion. There’s something we need to know about centurion acceptance in the 1st century. They led in some of the worlds most difficult situations, and they led from the front. They were literate. They were the worst of the worst, or the best of the best depending on the vantage point. They were detested by those they occupied, most specifically in this area of the world. The were killers that commanded killers. They were consequently the most hated and feared symbol of Roman occupation. This encounter is striking to first century readers of Matthew because Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah. The Messiah was expected to set up a forever rule without occupation by outside forces (Is. 9:7, John 12:34, & Ez. 37:25), so how could the one who was supposed to oust the occupiers be helping the greatest symbol of occupation?

“I am, so I will.”

The centurion cared for those in his life, and He was now hoping Jesus would do the same. Jesus responds simply, “I will” (Matt. 8:7). Jesus said that His love was greater than our similarities, but is most vibrant in our differences. Jesus was acting out what He had previously taught (Matt. 5:46). Jesus made sense of true love when He said love isn’t exclusion, but love is inclusion. Love doesn’t keep me from you, love draws me to you. The light of Jesus’ love shines brightest in the very moments you expect Him not to love.

“Love isn’t predictable, because life isn’t.”

The scene with the centurion ends with Jesus finding the good in the centurion, and if that wasn’t bold enough, Jesus ends the encounter by showing and telling His disciples the mechanics of love is inclusion not exclusion. Love isn’t displayed in our similarities as much as it is in our differences. You’re going to meet a world of different people today, this week, this life, show them the love Jesus made sense of so long ago. Show them that differences are celebrated because loves shines brightest there.

“Loved. I am, so I will…”

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Commanding the water

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WaterJesus once amazed His disciples by commanding the “Wind and water” to calm (Luke 8:25). This is so amazing to them and us because it’s something we cannot do, but we wish we could. Imagine the scene if Jesus calms the wind and water, but it was something everyone could do. Big deal, right. Most of our stress comes from attempting things we cannot do. Our life can at times consist of our attempting to calm the winds and waters of everyday life. If you’re under a tremendous amount of stress, I’m going to bet your trying to command the water. Were all on life’s voyage, and there are plenty of things within our grasp to effect but the weather isn’t one of them. Take inventory of the things that cause you daily stress and distress. What about them can you not impact. Jesus once said that worrying changes nothing in life (Matt. 6:27). Paul said we should be praying instead of worrying (Phil. 4:6). If you cannot command the wind, you’re best bet is talking with the one who can.

Vengeance is for the experts

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Stones“Vengeance is God’s because only God can avenge.”

Paul says to the Roman Christian’s that vengeance is God’s (Rom. 12:9-21). Is that true? I mean God does still use humans to carry out recompense, right? It’s not as though God comes down and personally tends to all the vengeance due the world. So what does Paul mean to say. Well, this is covenant language, and God wants His people to act like covenant people. covenant oath participants say “I’ll do what I’m suppose to even if you don’t”. We are to act without the thought of receipt. We are to do as instructed in spite of whether others do as instructed. Paul is saying we show our covenant faith in the midst of covenant breaking.

“The most loving thing you can do is let God have His way.”

Mordecai’s death seemed certain at the hands of a wicked and proud Haman. How does a man with this much power and influence fail in such a simple plot to destroy a man. When there was no one to plead Mordecai’s case, in fact, Mordecai was totally unaware that his case needed pleading, God’s protective providence gives practicality to his great love for the righteous. King Ahasuerus’ dream provoked his searching the chronicles and finding Mordecai a hero. Haman ended up hung on his own gallows, as is the case for many wicked who plot our destruction (Esther 6-7). We who are prone to seeking our own justice, should be constantly reminded that our deeds are for and before God alone and for His glory. We need not trouble our minds over the repayment of our being wronged, only know that it is exact (Col. 3:23-25).

“Stones of vengeance are too heavy to lift…”

without crushing you and your victim. Imagine your life is like a bucket you carry with you daily. Every time bad happens, you add a stone. Every time good happens, you take out a stone. It won’t be long before your bucket is getting heavier and heavier. Carrying this weight begins to alter everything about you. Jesus not only takes our pale away, he turns those stones to bread. Just as with Joseph, we have to remember what is meant to harm us actually makes us who God wants us to be (Gen. 50:10).

“When I avenge, it’s lopsided.”

We’ve all been hurt, wronged, back stabbed, and betrayed. For us vengeance is lopsided. We just want the other person to pay, and we’re willing to expend a lifetimes worth of energy to see it through. We think we know what they did, why they did it, and that we had nothing to do with it. Generally all of those are wrong peering through our own tainted lenses. God wants something different. God wants His character to be on display. He wants His people to trust him to take care of everything. God wants covenant people to display His mercy, love, forgiveness, and grace in contrast to the hatred others may have for you. There’s peace in that. That’s a bucket that holds no stones at all.

Why?

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Question 1We have few boxes for children who question deeply. Growing up I recall being told that we do not ask God why. That provoked only one question in my mind. Why? This question has formed and molded me. The more deeply we question the more legitimate the answers. I questioned deeply if there was a God. I question deeply if that God is best understood in Jesus. I questioned deeply nuances of my faith. The questioner frustrates the answerer, and why shouldn’t they. You asked a question and they gave the answer. That’s it, right? Not for the questioner.

My middle daughter asked just the other day during morning devotional, “Dad, what if I don’t believe God is real”. She asks this question a lot, in different ways. Fortunately for her she’s not asking someone who just read about the answer or heard it in a lecture. I have breathed in this question and exhaled a journey of answers. She’s not asking a rookie questioner. You cannot hide the flame of questions under anything that it will not soon burn through, so I answer her. I answer be asking better questions. I help her to ask herself if there are other areas of her life that rely entirely on faith. I recall one morning when she said, “gravity”. I believe in gravity, dad. Question 3There are certainly more examples and she will find them as she questions. She didn’t learn an answer that morning more than she learned how to question well.

We have determined that the exceptional among us can ingest information and regurgitate it on command, which makes me wonder if the ability to recall information is the pinnacle of intelligence at all. Computers, with all their intelligence can only give you what you ask it too, so who is truly the most intelligent, the one regurgitating or the one provoking the regurgitation through asking the better question.

7 simple words that wreck world views

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truth 2“I don’t believe in God”, I hear it all the time. The reality is, we all believe in God, but many have assumed the divine role for themselves. I’ll often ask how they know what’s true. Some will suppose they can simply dismiss this question with a quick-witted quip of believing truth is “to each his/her own”. Believing truth is found by the person, within the person, and applied only to the person. “Do you believe that’s true for everyone”, I ask. 7 simple words that wreck this world view. You cannot escape objective truths. Objective truths exist, we all presuppose them daily, and they cannot originate from the individual and maintain objectivity.

Some will even admit believing in truth apart from God. When asked how they know things to be true, the answer always narrows to senses truthand reasoning. When asked how they know there senses and reasoning are valid, they generally recognize that it is by their senses and reasoning that their senses and reasoning are validated. Recognizing that to have major irreconcilable circularity, the next remark is often “Well, how do you know your sense and reasoning are valid”. Well, the answer is found outside of us, in God. God has communicated truth to the world in Jesus, and that communication is kept via the bible.

A God like me: Rethinking Easter

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The picture of a cowering Jesus in the garden and on the cross plugs awkwardly into the Jesus tradition. Stories of joyfully singing martyrs spilling their lives to follow Jesus appears to be a divergence from Jesus’ own experience, and that has always bothered me.Cup

All we know of Jesus life was His knowing that He came to die. The Gospels are littered with this reality. The very writing structure of Matthew, Mark, and Luke is moving the reader toward this event in Jerusalem. He rebukes Peter for attempting to stop it. He resists Satan’s temptation to have it happen differently. He spoke often of His hour, and He knew the time of His hour, or death, had come. He knew the Old Testament, so He even knew how it was going to happen and that it had to happen. It’s a fact that He stressfully agonized in the Garden. Bearing the weight of the world’s separation from God would be unimaginably agonizing, but I’m not convinced that at this pivotal moment, Jesus gets cold feet. If he does, at least how we’ve understood it, He becomes the biggest hypocrite in all of History, and that’s not the Jesus I know. That’s not the Jesus we need.

“We don’t need a God who is like us, we need one who is like God.”

What if the cup did “pass” as Jesus asked. We assume that “pass” means “not happen”, but the Greek expression “pass”, can also mean “to come and go quickly”. A person could spend a few days dying on a Roman cross, but Jesus death within six hours surprised the executioners into using methods to validate His death. Dying on a cross within six hours was astonishing. To add greater complexity, the author of Hebrews referring back to this time, implies that His garden prayer was indeed answered (Heb. 5:7). The cup, as the author of Hebrews suggests, did come and go quickly.

“In our attempt to connect Jesus to humanity, we tend to make Him too human.”

We move the reluctant savior to the cross and hear Him cry out to God asking why He has been forsaken. We have good intentions in humanizing Jesus. We want to portray a God like us, but I find little comfort in a God like me. Jesus is doing from the cross what He did in life, intentionally making sense of God’s communication to His people. He’s quoting Psalm 22. Later in this same Psalm we see a picture of crucifixion some hundreds of years before it was a Roman practice. Psalm 22 ends with a picture of the New World of humanity being in covenant with Jesus. The author solidifies this reality by encouraging the reader to see that “He has performed it”, or “It is finished”.

“We need a willing God, for an unwilling humanity to flourish.”

Wanting to hate Noah

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thCAOPT9UL3I walked into the theater ready to hate this movie, but I loved it. At so many of Aronofsky’s turns I was asking myself permission to hate now, but I never could. I could not believe that I’d sat in the back of the theater hoping to formulate a vile opinion all the while finding myself near tears at least twice during the story. Once in Noah’s spying out the savagery surrounding him, an animal appearing to be a goat or lamb was tossed to the virulent crowd. They tore and ate the beast before it even hit the ground and all I saw was Christ. Upon his return from this exploration, his wife made reference to “their” wickedness. Noah looks at her with a sort of shocked regret and says, “the evil of man is not just in them, it’s in us all”.

I was disappointed, not in Noah, but in me. How could so many in my circles much smarter, wiser, and learned than I proclaim such a spectrum of disdain for a movie that had brought me to tears. Maybe we were looking for different things. I didn’t go expecting a recitation of the first eleven chapters of Genesis in some liturgical display of literature, rather I went hoping to experience something a bit more human. We can find the woven themes of grace in Breaking Bad, Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Vampires, Zombies, and the like, but not here, not with what Aronofsky has done. And so it is, the three-letter stigmata of my being emerges, why? I’m struck by the ease of sway given to young Christians, maybe more specifically in academia, that seem to have merely a muted voice, if any unique voice at all to embrace as their own. They seem only to be able to regurgitate thoughts thought for them, and it isn’t simply in these circles but in the greater breadth of Christianity as well. The sort of do your secular vocation and we’ll do the intellectual heavy lifting. Thank you, but I believe I’ll carry my own bags.

God spoke, and one man’s obedience has brought life from death. That is the essence of Aronofky’s Noah, and I adore the story because that is the story of Jesus.

Stop moving the comma, and change the sentence

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thBY3W14RFI am often dumbfounded at attempts to achieve different results by essentially doing the same stuff. No matter our world, we are never going to get results we hope for by simply moving the comma. It looks like this. He guys, we were doing this, but now let’s do this differently.

 

It should look like this. Hey guys, we did this, let’s try that. I’ve been in the world of business and church, and I see it in both worlds at equally ridiculous levels. We want customers in our stores, so let’s take the over priced merchandise and dance around with it. It’s still over priced. Churches want to “reach” their community, so we form committees and focus groups that ask the wrong questions and come to the same grey and self-centered conclusions.

Sentences do not fundamentally change, when we move the comma. I’ll say it again. Sentences, do not fundamentally change when we move the comma. You simply change the emphasized area of the bad idea you’re perpetuating.

The art of hiding (People)

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Hiding“Let’s be honest, some people haven’t figured out the social part of social media.” A friend once debated whether to take a hiatus from social media or just delete a person that just made their skin crawl. “Hide them”, I said. It’s that simple, just hide them. We’re often in situations that we cannot just delete a person without some awkwardness to follow. I’ve hidden people for short periods of time, and I’ve some friends that have been hidden for a long time. They’re still friends, I just cannot watch so many train wrecks at once. I’m sure people have hidden me. Heck, I often annoy myself. Hiding someone is like walking away from a conversation at a party. You don’t really dislike the person, you guys are just different enough to annoy each other more often than not. Deleting a person is like telling someone to get out. That’s an awkward party moment and creates tension and division among friends you both probably Hiding 2share.

You deserve to be hidden when:

1- You’re constantly pessimistic.

2- Things that should stay in your head, come out your finger tips.

3- You’ve found a soap box, and you keep finding it, in every post.

“In hiding a friend or two, you’re simply sending them to their rooms to think about what they’ve posted.”

Dropping stones

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Throwing StonesFamilies fight, some much worse than others. They fight because they’re born into a community not of their choosing and because each person in this natural-born community is, well, a person and an individual with all the personality and life that comes with that. The only way I knew to deal with the tension of family when I was younger was to run away, and once I was far enough, I began casting stones. It took way too long to realize that God put me in my family to be a part of my family.

Christianity is no different it seems, and I wonder if we’re learning the lessons of family. Here’s the way it seems to work. Someone in the family does something bizarre. The group that’s appalled distances themselves, turns, and begins casting what amounts to social media stones. I get it. It’s safe and requires much less energy to throw a stone than to place it gently and thoughtfully into a mosaic.

How do we disagree and remain family?

1- You are family- We have to cast off the presumption that the bizarre behavior takes us out of our family bond. This is the presumption that fuels everything else. We think, “They did this or that, they must not be part of the family”. Get it wrong here, and nothing else matters.

2- Talk to, not about- If it’s big enough an issue to break unity, then it’s certainly big enough to get up the gumption to go to them and personally ask Stonesthem to explain.

3- It’s not all about you- Realize that you’re angry disconnection from family will not be worked out alone. My guess is people are following you, and often blindly and unquestioning.

4- PRIDE- We think giving up our stones is weakness. They hurt us or the family, and now we’ll show them. If God can put on the stench of humanity, I believe you and I can put on the stench of humility and concern for our family.

5- Resolve to stay family- Jesus stood his ground in the midst of spit, slaps, and nails.

“The only issue that breaks us, is the one we allow to.”

This is why you’re anxious

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thUC42X1VR“You’re not there yet.”

Telling someone the bible says not to be anxious in hopes of jarring them out of anxiety is like giving a lost person directions by simply telling them they’re not there yet. It’s true but it isn’t the whole story.

“It’s about volume control.”

Anxiety works on two controls. What’s possible and what’s livable. When you can cycle through a high amount of possible life outcomes and all are very unlivable in your world, you are going to have major life anxiety.

Imagine at birth the volume of possible outcomes is turned way down. As life progresses, that volume naturally increases. For some it increases rapidly and vividly. Some, because of media and personal influences and situation, can imagine an infinite number of life possibilities. This volume has become way to loud for them. Everyone hates me, what if this car crashes into us, every shadow is a monster, what if my heart stops beating, these are just a few examples.

At the same time, you have the volume of things you cannot bear to live with. These two work in unison to have us thinking, these are possibilities and I cannot bear the th4VNVPF9Athought of any of them being true.

“The music is too loud to dance.”

These two volumes cause us to dance through life in very different ways. If both volumes are very loud, I’m going to be anxious, angry, aggregated, fearful, reclusive, and immobile. If they are way to low, I’ll be careless, lazy, indifferent, sad, and lethargic.

“The great equalizer.”

Joy is found in life when we are balancing these two volumes with faith filled accuracy. The first volume to be adjusted is the livable volume. You have to begin to increasingly accept what life has to offer by knowing it’s making me a better person, it’s all for a reason, and eventually I will be able to help someone in my situation some day (Rom. 8:28, 2 Cor. 1:3-7).

 

 

Green God

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th86BW2XMNThe prospect of worlds end fascinates millions. The idea is so prevalent it’s become more of a presupposition for humanity, and we seem only to be left wondering how and when. Some say it just winds to a close, some say humanity will use it up, and other think Jesus is coming back to blow it up like the death star. So it boils down to it kills itself, we kill it, or Jesus does. So who cares?

If it winds to a close, then it’s rather pointless to care for it. If its destruction is at the hand of humanity, then your ultimate fix ends with ridding the Earth of humans. If Darth Jesus is coming back to blow it up, then you would want no attachment to the Earth what so ever because Jesus only blows up bad things.

A novel idea might be to stop consulting novels and novices for our ideas surrounding this issue. So, what does God say about the Earth? Well, He says it will last forever (Ps. 104:5, 148:6, Ec. 1:4). Wouldn’t it just make sense that Christians should out thYPT4TL9Wcare anyone on this eternal rock when it comes to caring for said rock. We believe he created it (Is. 45:18). We believe it will last forever. We believe it will be filled with his glory (Dan. 2:35). We might want to make it a priority to care for it. Not because it will dissolve like a salted snail if we don’t, rather because it honors the one we claim to worship.

Giving up lent for lent

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thJKHVXLAHBeginning Ash Wednesday, lent continues roughly 40 days up until Easter. Marked by giving up life snares, it can be a great time of self-evaluation. Here’s how you can totally miss the purpose of lent:

1- You could give up wrong things. It’s popular to quit social media for a season, and that’s no different during lent. To quit social media is to misunderstand what it is. A layer of communication, similar to the phone so many years ago. Stopping connecting with people may be counter intuitive to what lent is trying to produce in us. Further puzzling is the comment I’ve seen continually from those who’ve given up social media for a season, “Well, I’m back. It’s time for me to get caught up on what I missed”. I shouldn’t have to say much more on how absurd that is. You could certainly give up being a social media train wreck for lent.

2- You could resume what you gave up. At least in a “Business as usual” way. If it’s worth giving up for 40 days, my guess is it may be best to give up for a lifetime. I’m not certain I’ve completely understood giving up self-proclaimed snares with the expressed intent on picking them up again. If it’s an idol for you, give it up for good.

3- You could think lent is about chocolate. The 40 days of lent sort of represents Jesus’ obedient triumph over the 40 days of wilderness temptations, which eventually enables you and I to be more like Jesus. You could give up things without giving in to remembering Jesus. N. T. Wright has a wonderful devotion to carry you through lent entitle, “Lent for Everyone”. Don’t give up anything before you give in to knowing Jesus more deeply.

4- You could give up things totally. We think the cure for giving into things is to give up on things. You’re not Holy if you can quit eating cake. You’re Holy if you can eat it moderately. You typically see this behavior with alcohol. Those who’ve abused alcohol, find the answer to their abuse is abstinence. Ancient cultures like Greco-Roman’s looked at total abstinence on the same level as total drunkenness. Both were seemed immature and highlighted an immature lack of self-control.

I love lent as a time to reflect on being more like Jesus, but I’m just not comfortable with temporary sanctification. Make this lent season mean more than ever before by giving up some of your misconceptions of it.

Theological thumb twittling

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thGIFUWSQVAdam had a mission that Satan ruined (Gen. 3), and there came a time when the second Adam, Jesus, underwent similar enticement (Matt. 4, Rom. 5:12-21). Satan enticed Jesus to stop doing what Adam failed to do; have dominion, or be the King He was supposed to be (Gen. 1:27, Ps. 2), which would enable his posterity to subdue the Earth (Gen. 1:28, Rom. 8:16).

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record this witty and witless exchange of “God said this. No. God actually said this”, which is no less just like the Eden scene of Adam’s failure. We grasp feverously, and quite unsuccessfully at times, to make sense of these parallel scenes. First Satan wants Jesus to live (Matt. 4:1-4), then he wants Jesus to die (Matt. 4:5-7), and finally he wants Jesus to rule (Matt. 4:8-11). All true, and eventually happen, by God’s design not Satan’s.

Now that Jesus is King enthroned at the right hand of God (Eph. 1:18-23), the redeemed design for the world continues through the people of God as the spiritual posterity or children of God (Rom. 8:16). Enabled through the now all-encompassing and filling spirit of God (Gen. 4:6), we now become the mountain Kingdom that fills the Earth and never ends (Dan. 2:34-35, 44-45).

Here’s were most of us become theological thumb twittlers. We have no idea about what all that means for us right now. We suppose our only role in the story is to sit and wait for Jesus to come fix everything. God did fix everything, by obediently sacrificing Himself (Heb. 7). God didn’t die to give you His spirit, simply so you could have warm fuzzies about your lot in life and a date to fill in the first pages of your bible. No, He changed the entire nature of the “Holy Spirit” for a purpose, and that purpose is to finish what He started at that cross, having dominion and subduing the world, and will return to receive what His spirit wrought in the world through His children, a Kingdom fit for a King (1 Cor. 15:24-25). Most of us don’t believe this Theology, but most of us admit it with our life. It may be time to have our life and theology agree.

Kissing the son

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KissingMany Christians cannot answer the question, “What is Jesus doing now”, but it’s this very question that clues us into an accurate view of the King and His kingdom. Jesus became the faithful son as opposed to the unfaithful sons, Adam and Israel. In his faithfulness God enthroned Him as King of the world. In a perpetual display of His authority and God’s glory in enthroning Him, the world that Adam lost dominion over and whose posterity could not subdue, Christ gains dominion and begins His subduing reign at the right hand of God via His spiritual posterity.

The peace, or shalom, that Israel was supposed to bring to the world categorizes the very nature of His subduing effects. An accurate view of the King and His kingdom calls everyone, as the Psalmist does, to kiss the son lest He be angry. Kissing the son is a world viewing submission and admission to the rule of the King. Not submitting to His rule and taking refuge under His kingly protection, according to the psalmist, gets you wrathfully subdued. Not a place you want to be.

Moreover, we see all are being subdued. In what most would say to be a grand Kissing 2and concise portrait of the gospel, Paul says, “then comes the end, when He hands over the Kingdom to God the Father, when He has abolished all rule and authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet” (1 Cor. 15:24-25).

“How is this happening”, must be our next question. Jesus is raising us from the spiritual dead, giving us new life, a new heart, and the spirit of His son within us. The spirit of God which is making us and the world a different place. No matter how long it takes to repair the damage that was done to the world, the kings spirit in us is gradually accomplishing its reversal. Not until you believe this, will you have the rewardably active faith in and around your community that the king so longs to see.

Judas, whether aware of the depths of his treacherous mocking, mocks Jesus with His betraying Kiss in a show of superficial submission and hollow admittance that Jesus is indeed the king of psalm 2. Much like that of Caiaphas the high priest admitting that it would be better for one man to die for the people (John 11:29). So, one man did die for the people, and that one man rose to be King, worthy of our true and holy kiss. May we stop kissing the son in disbelief as Judas, lest He be angry.

Thank God for atheist do-gooders

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AtheistYou know that list of people you just “Cannot work with”? It may need to get a lot shorter. Recently, I shared a community outing experience that left one or two of my listeners wondering how I could work with an atheist. It’s easy. The same way I work with hyper-religious people. I remember that imperfect people are helping other imperfect people.

I’m left wondering what would we rather atheist do? If we’re angry because they are doing good things in their communities, would we be satisfied if they were doing bad things. Maybe we’re just so stunned that they’re doing good things that it cracks open the egg of our worldview and makes us take a deeper look inside. Is it completely inconsistent with their beliefs that they are doing good things in their community, I believe it is. Do I tell them that every time we help together? No.

Atheist1When do you suppose you’re going to get a chance to be around atheist in an influencing way? When they come to church? When you debate them on-line? At work where talking religion is generally taboo? I’m a Jesus follower, so I’m going to be about doing good things, and atheist hands can callous just as easily as mine as we help other imperfect people.

 

Rethinking tithe

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tithe“75% to 85% of church budgets go to staff and buildings, but what if it didn’t?”

In his frustration, a pastor once told me the day was coming when even volunteers will be paid in the church. Every mavericky bone in my body wanted to challenge him to lead by example, stop taking a salary. So I decided to do just that. As a pastor and church starter, I will never receive a salary from my church, nor will anyone in leadership. There will also never need to be a building “committee” to build the gym that every church seems to need to be holy because we will recreate space that already exists in and around our community. I’ll work right along side those I Shepard. Maybe a teacher, mechanic, firefighter, lawyer, dishwasher or something of the sort.

“Pass the plate, so we can pass the plate.”

When people give, as no doubt the bible does teach, it will be intentionally directed toward the community and what the community has told us that it needs. There are so many doing so much good for the city, and we want to support them to fulfill their mission. Someone asked me at a recent conference how I managed to do all these things when it takes them 20 hours a week to prepare for a sermon. My first thought was “Really!”. It takes you 20 hours to prepare? It takes you 20 hours to prepare for a 40 minute sermon that will be forgotten 30 minutes later. I’m not certain that’s a good investment of time, and I’m also unsure you’re maximizing your resources.

“Get ready for deeper declines in giving.”

Most research shows tithe is declining to all time lows, and I’m inclined Givingto think its more than the typical scapegoat of the “Bad economy”. Maybe, people are becoming more skeptically exhausted with how we’ve financially operated. You see, everyone knows the church is supposed to be a bright spot in the city, yet we are often too strapped with burdensome staff wages and building costs to actually light up anything but the gym on Wednesdays.

I’m not so naive to think this is for everyone, but it is for me. It’s an expression of church in the ever-growing city sector that brings great glory to Jesus and violates no orthodoxy. It’s quite simply an expression of my beliefs. Which, we all do express.

On-line verses On-campus?

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OnlineEducation is complex, but staples to a well learned student persist. They persist in the ever-growing arguments pitting online and on campus modes of educating against one another. I’ve done both, and I’ve found most argue for their chosen path seated from their favorite recliner of experience, including me. So, I’ll attempt to explore this topic from a love seat.

“Don’t miss this!”

Learning at its core, is up to the student. It is truly that simple. If the student wants to learn, they will. From the back of the room, I’ve watch a majority of students pass the class time tooling around on Facebook, and I’ve seen them totally engaged. I’ve completed less than the bare essentials required from an online class, and I’ve taken time to dive into deeper study. I used to devour leadership books, not because I was in an MBA course but because I was tired of being a poor leader.

“Environments make a difference.”

I’ve been in classes that were so poorly administrated that I had to force my self to a greater attention. That’s a little to kind. I have literally had to keep myself from plunging out a window. That’s better. Not just due to the teaching, rather the entire discontinuity of the entire class. I’ve been in others that I didn’t want to leave. I’ve taken online classes that excited my further study, and I’ve had others that I wasn’t sure what was what and were to start and end.

“The destruction of scholarship?”

Online certainly destroys scholarship, right? No, poor scholars and poor students destroy scholarship. I’ve been in classes, both on campus and online, that left me wondering if we were all reading the same book, and others that left me amazed at the deep dialogue that occurred.

“Intimacy forgone.”

Online isn’t as intimate as the classroom, right? No, intimacy is at the whim of the student and teacher. I’ve stood in a line to speak to a scholar after a lecture just to give up with other students as “that guy” in front of us has to discuss everything they’ve ever learned in life. In both cases, intimacy generally came from email. Certainly there is more peer-to-peer interaction, right? Sure, once the hours lecture is over, and the 5 students who ask question that were answered in the lecture 30 minutes ago, that leave just enough time to stand in line to gain some intimate time with the scholar and peers, oh wait.

Are you a stifling leader?

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Micro“Sitting in a closed garage with the engine running.”

That is micro-managing leadership. I remember thinking, “Is that what I act like”, the first experience I had with a micro-manager after having been one myself. The micro-manager has two fatal flaws. They fundamentally do not believe in or care for their people. Oh, it may seem different on the surface, but just underneath is a different story. When you don’t believe in or care for your people, here’s what you’ll do:

1- You will not allow them to make you look bad. If you do actually give them the lead on something that matters, you’ll hover over their every move to make sure they do it just like you.

2- You’ll never move past how the weather is. You live in the world of superficial niceties because they only exist to get what you need done, so you can look good for that next promotion.

3- You’ll have a general pessimism about what they can never seem to get done. What do your personnel meetings look like. Are they always about who stinks and how to get rid of them, or who’s an all-star and how to reproduce them. Both extremes are self-serving. You should know all your people’s strengths and weaknesses, and you should know where you hope they will be next in their progress as humans, not just your worker drones.

4- You’ll be generally disgruntled most of the time. Why wouldn’t you be. You’re the only one who knows how to do anything right, right?

They became leaders because things they could control were done well, but they aren’t quite sure why everyone isn’t just like them when it comes to leading others. So there they sit, leading in a closed garage with the engine running. It’s only a matter of time…

99.9% Average

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Average“Chances are you’ll die, well, not so famous.”

It’s likely the world isn’t going to miss you. It’s safe to say History books will be written without you. These may not be the grandiose terms we day-dream in, but the reality is we’ll all die just having been average people.

“What we can be is above average, well, average people.”

Fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, friends, acquaintances, workers, and the like, all impact someone. Research continues to tell us that deep lasting impact happens in small communities, from 3 to 12 people.

“Impact should be seen in concentric circles.”

I influence and impact my children more deeply than my friends, but I impact my friends more deeply than the guy at the convenience store. We are all connected, but we are more tightly connected the further into our circles we travel.

People travel in and out of the circles, and that’s normal. Whether its children heading off to college, coworkers changing careers, or friendships fading on the horizon, there is continual movement between the circles of influence. Most of our relationships are just average people living life together. What seems to make us above average in this quest, is realizing and pouring ourselves unselfishly into these communities of influence.

Prodigal Father

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father“I forgive you.”

I wanted to mean them, but those whispered words I didn’t really mean. The moment didn’t allow me to marinate in the pain he allowed to fester over the years. I simply held his hand and whispered I forgive you father. I forgive you for a wasted life, unconcerned about anyone but you. How does one man squander so many blessings? After leaving that night, it wasn’t but a few hours later that I received the call that he was dead. A man who would, in the limited time I knew him, speak so highly of a firm handshake, had no firmness left in his hands. At forty-three, he hadn’t just drank himself to death, he had loved himself to death.

“Father’s forgive father’s.”

It wasn’t until I grew into my on fatherhood that I could begin to experience a real forgiving of him. Forgiveness doesn’t forget, rather it remembers to forgive more deeply. We’ve all heard it, I forgive but cannot forget. There is a partial truth there. We are creatures designed to remember. It’s how we remember that reveals something about us.

“We’re all dying fathers.”

I often see myself lying there dying having squandered my fatherhood, and I certainly have done just that on many occasions. I’ve often allowed myself to be carried away with me. Comparing our worth and excellence as fathers to fathers around us always leads to a distorted view of your own fatherhood. Somehow this allows us to see ourselves as doing and being so much more than they did and were. It’s not until we see our fatherhood in the shadow of Christ that we truly see ourselves as missing the fatherly mark more often than not. We’re able then to run out to meet the prodigal fathers around us with true forgiveness. Knowing that Jesus grace has indeed ran out to lavish us with love and mercy, we can do the same.

Under Construction

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construstuction“It’s how you react that defines you.”

You know that person that just, “Tells it like it is”. They are, in their self proclamation, “Just keeping it real”. I can spot them easily because I was that person, and I am still at times. When I see this, I cannot help thinking, “You’re keeping it real alright. Real awkward”, and worse still, they keep it real distant and impersonal. I was the center of my world as a young leader, but having the benefit of spending time with solid leaders throughout my career, that began to change. Humanity is flawed, and we are uniquely designed to recognize the flaws. What we fail to realize is that the greatest flaw of all is that we fail to recognize our own first.

“Recognize the journey of others.”

Mentoring is not something we generally walk away from thinking,”Now that’s how you mentor a person”. My flashes in the mentoring pan generally came from unexpected moments. Likewise, in being mentored, the greatest wisdom I walked away with were in those unscripted moments. The reality of your leadership is scripted and unscripted, and we have to embrace both to be successful and prepared to develop others. In these scripted and unscripted moments, we are driven to wisdom guided by relentless care for others. The leader who is genuinely and uniquely developing others, not only wants that person to experience the joy and fulfillment of success, but they do so a part from their own wants and desires. Developing others requires you to see and value them and their unique journey far above how it fits into your own.

“Care like you are cared for.”

In explaining what true care and love for others really looks like, Paul uses Jesus’ love for His people as an example (Eph. 5:25). Jesus gave His life for us, and in turn asks us to do the same for Him and others. Jesus certainly loves us just as we are, but loves us too much to allow us to stay the same. Developing others isn’t easy, it’s down right difficult, but we do so because we care for them. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

Why Genesis 4:7 is the saddest verse in the bible

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Macbeth“Why so angry.”

I cringe reading it. Left grasping for reasons his sacrifice and ultimately himself are unacceptable to God, Cain is obviously angry. God asks Cain why he’s so angry about the rejected sacrifice. I mean it’s an easy equation as God recounts it. Cain, do good and be accepted. There’s something in me that sees a small helpless child that wants to please his father, yet fails at every attempt. The father says son, just do good and I’ll accept you. The tear blinded child shouts that he’s trying and nothing is working. The father, flippantly shrugs. Oh well, better luck next time. Like Macbeth, we scrub the blood from our hands at a furiously pointless pace. 

“Hmm, do I bring the good corn or the bad?”

I’m amazed at those who so easily demand that Cain chose not to bring his best as if he were in a moment of wrestling over which corn to bring. What! Listen, God is speaking audibly to these folks, and it hasn’t been long since He’s shown his power against the manipulative serpent. Is it possible, sure, but does it fit with the rest of the story? I wish it were that easy, but tragically it’s not. Luke writes of Jesus saying that unless we repent we will perish outside of the Kingdom of God (Luke 13:3). That’s all well and God, and even Cain could rejoice at such news. Luke goes on to explain that Peter believed repentance was a gift from God (Acts 8:24). Paul says something similar to Timothy (2 Timothy 2:25). Luke again makes it clear the repentance is a gift granted or not granted by God (Act 11:18).

“Oh God, change my mind!”

Repentance is a fancy word for changing your mind for good. We are called, like Cain, to change our minds about God, but like Cain we cannot unless God grants it. Reflecting on life, I remember being angry like Cain. Angry that I keep “doing” the right things but no change occurs. It wasn’t until, by God’s grace, that I realized his grace in owing me nothing. He doesn’t owe me forgiveness. Justice is occurring without God’s forgiveness. If all humanity died apart from God, justice would be satisfied because we all deserve to live eternally separated from God because of Adam’s and our sin. If just one person received mercy the likes of forgiving their offence against God, God would be the most merciful God imaginable, but He does much more than that, He has shown mercy on millions.

Why abortion was an option

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sadAs a teenager, the culmination of familial and societal eyes glare deep. I was a statistical norm in relation to teenage promiscuity. Resoundingly, we knew we must keep the muse of our action in whispers alone, and a baby doesn’t whisper, it screams everything you think you’re hiding from. Had the whispers shouted into life, quieting the cry was all I knew. I would have become like those I’m suppose to hate as a Christian, but I don’t hate them because I am them, and I was born in a spiritual state worse even than those who’ve chosen to quiet those cry’s.

“Forgiveness is infinite.”

Precisely this reality drives motives to save life. There are those whose life, like mine, could not be interrupted for life to emerge. While life with that guilt, suppressed or engaged, is unthinkably difficult, the greatest life we silenced was Christ’s. Born an enemy of God, God became like us to die for us, all that we’ve done and will do. That I never aborted, doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have. It doesn’t mean that I, as all, didn’t take the life of the savior of the world. Unique in our expression of sin, we are entirely similar in the realty of it.

“Status updates don’t save lives. Lives save lives.”

I wasn’t ready to live for anyone but me, and quite truthfully, it’s a continual struggle we all face. The past cannot be changed, but it can be forgiven. I’ve asked a thousand forgiveness’ for past blunders. Lost in the pain that persists at times, I’m fueled to pour my life’s learned mistakes into those around me.

How I nearly killed my wife

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thBGL1AGHGBlame could rest on culture, but what purpose has blame served a gasping victim. I cut my teeth in a worldview, farther reaching than any one region, that would demand wives’ identities be servile to their husband’s. In fact, nearly consumed by them. Man was king and not only was she not queen, I’d made my wife the court jester. The audacity of Jesus’ message in the 1st century was largely the ridiculous reversal of what Kings are supposed to do. Kings are supposed to require the life and service of those they rule, right?

“Kings and Queens die to give life.”

Jesus did just the opposite. The King that gave His life and service for those He loved, until the very end. In so doing, birthed the spirit of Christianity. I noticed changes in my wife over the years, but it wasn’t until I realized we hadn’t become one flesh, the two of us became my flesh. I had absorbed her creativity, passion, zeal, and fervor, and consumed it. The vivid realization, by God’s grace, that I was actually living with and married to another real life human being, created in God’s image and redeemed into Christ’s, was the arresting reality causing my grip to lesson.

“Two lungs breathing.”

She’s still learning to breathe again, and so am I. We are one, and I almost killed half of us, which was killing both of us. I hadn’t just sinned against my wife, but God Himself. Letting her up for air seemed most certainly like weakness. In reality holding her under showed the greatest of fear and weakness. Thinking I saw the reflection of my crown in the water as I dutifully held her under, was in reality, the dim view of her crown beneath the water.

When casseroles eat the chef

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slap 2

“Humiliation isn’t a private affair.” 

What sports fan can forget Terrell Owens scoring on the Cowboys and choosing to celebrate by running to mid field in the center of the star. A few plays later when Emmitt Smith rushes for a touchdown, he then carries the ball out and spikes it on the star. Just a few plays after that, Owens scores and runs to the star again, but this time he is tackled by George Teague before his celebration, which erupts into a team brawl. Why, because Owens was attempting to humiliate the Cowboys.

“Only God(s) can be humiliated.”

Jesus turned the “eye for an eye” thinking on its head (Matt. 5:38-39), when He taught his listeners to turn the other cheek if they were slapped. We think in our culture the slap is the issue, but Jesus is saying humiliation is the issue. In what is known as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus turns our thinking upside down concerning humiliation. The entire sermon is full of “This is what you thought, but this is what you should think”. In Jesus’ culture, and even to this day, the left hand is not typically used in interpersonal contact. The left hand was considered unclean for various personal hygienic reasons, so a second slap is most likely a back hand. In Jesus’ culture to slap was a public humiliation, but to back hand was the pinnacle of disrespect and humiliation.

“Humiliation begs for justice.” 

It takes a certain view of ones self to experience humiliation. The more askew the view of self, the greater humiliation experienced. It’s not about thinking more or less of ourselves. It’s about thinking accurately of ourselves. An accurate view of ourselves realizes our place in this order; God, others, and me. An inaccurate view of self realizes the opposite; Me, others, and God. When we are at the pinnacle of the humiliation pyramid, there will be no end to offenses. When Jesus is at the pinnacle, He becomes the end of humiliation for us by the ultimate humiliation, His death at the hands of humanity. Imagine a casserole eating the chef, and you begin to grasp at the ridiculousness of it all.    

“Humiliation is an identity crisis.”

Owens was attacking the very identity of the Cowboys, but in reality it was just football and just a patch of field. In the immaturity of our mentality we are often humiliated because we do in fact have a mental category for the incredulity of offending God. Unfortunately, we are assuming ourselves to be such a God. When we allow God to be God, then we are free to be humanity as it was intended. We are free to gladly turn the other cheek because the only one being humiliated is the striker…

 

Two words that confused time and everything in between

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ConfusedI suppose as long as I’ve been a student of the bible, consistency seemed to be a necessity. Hence the very name of this blog. We’re all a bit inconsistent in this or that area. I’m still inconsistent in many areas of life, but I’m consciously working on those areas. Some days I work harder than others. Some days, if I’m honest, I don’t care to work at all. In the world of studying the bible, there are two words that seem to garner a consistent inconsistency; literal and generation. These aren’t the only ones, just the ones that have done some of the most harm to proper theology.

“That literally means something symbolic.”

I recall speaking to a professor once who was convinced the creation story couldn’t have happened in six literal days because it takes so long to name animals. Now, I’m not concerned about debating a topic that’s unwinnable from either angle, but if you’re going to make claims at least try to make as consistent a claim as possible. Tempted was I to ask, “So the God that you just admitted created everything, out of nothing, cannot have a human name animals in a day”. There is an even deeper problem just beneath the surface. I thought, “You do believe Adam was real and that he named the animals”. No doubt he and many would quickly agree, “Oh yes”. The question is how do they know that. Well, the bible just informed them. It also told them the time it took. So, how did you know when to turn the “literal” meter on and then off? I’m not advocating right or wrong, this point or that, just the blatant inconsistency of it all. My favorite is the whirlwind of inconsistency in understanding the book of Revelation and how some crown themselves the literal Kings of literal interpretation while explaining the book of Revelation with airplanes and nuclear bombs. I’m always tempted to hand them Josephus’ “Wars of the Jews”, and say “You mean like this”.

“When this actually meant this and not that.”

Generation, (Gulp)! The word I’ve seen stump some of the most highly educated scholars in the room. I recall being in class and asking, with no malicious intent, what Jesus meant when he said, “This generation will not pass away until all these things take place”. You could have heard a pin drop because everyone waited to have it all made sense of. Jesus said this as He ended the explanation of the Tribulation from a question asked Him by His disciples, “Tell us when these things will happen, and what will be the sign of your coming, and the end of the age”. They want to know as every one does, “When Jesus, when”. Jesus looks them as straight in their eyes as He does ours in scripture and says that this generation will still be around when it happens. Two things happen at this point; one, you close your bible and walk to the window. Huh, looks like all is still intact, couldn’t have happened, and two, the “Emperor” of explanation is reborn, “Already, not yet”. I like to call that “Cake, and eat it too”. This grand explanation comes from how we saw Jesus makes sense of the Old Testament. He was the true Adam, Israel, King, etc. So those events happened but were waiting to truly happen in Jesus. No problem, right? I’m not quite convinced that Jesus left that much undone before it was all over. I’ve seen some split up the predictions and place them in the “This” generation basket and the “That” generation basket. I’ve heard others make sense of it by claiming it to be a future generation rather than this generation, like Jesus said. Neither are satisfying and neither operate like Old Testament prophecies operated. Ever wonder why many believe the temple in Jerusalem has to be rebuilt? So it can be destroyed to fit this text, that’s how. You ever wonder why it’s not there now? Because it was destroyed, just like Jesus said, by the Roman empire in that generation, like Jesus said. Let me make a bold prediction here…

“You will NEVER see another temple on that mount because the true temple of God, Jesus Christ, rendered it obsolete and unnecessary by being the true high priest sacrificing the truest and purest of all sacrifices, Himself.” 

How to know for sure you’re NOT a Christian

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Confused“Habitual actions are an index of character.”

In a later letter to Ephesus, John encourages them to remember that if you make sin your business, it’s business will be you (1 John 3). There is no neutral gear for humanity, we’re either getting worse or better. Our life is seen in patterns from a distance. Patterns of righteousness or lawlessness. That’s not to say the righteous don’t do bad things, or the lawless don’t do good things, because they do. After the fall, the world goes from bad to worse, quickly. Lamech even sings a song recounting his murderous ways (Gen. 4:23). Eventually it even overtakes the covenant line of Seth as they began taking daughters from those that weren’t apart of the Godly line of Seth. God destroys the world and starts over with a ready-made family, Noah and his clan. Abraham eventually comes from the line of Shem, Noah’s son, which eventually gives birth to the nation of Israel as God promised (Gen. 12:2-3). Israel, like the others before, follows a worsening pattern toward lawlessness. If an honest look at the patterns in your life are increasingly more lawless or Godless, chances are you’re not a Christian.

“My Lord and my God.”

There’s really not a scenario where denying Jesus as Lord and God allows room for your still being a Christian. Doubting Thomas is etched into our minds from his having to see and touch the wounded and resurrected Christ before believing. Thomas makes the boldest statement about Christ of anyone up to this point in scripture. My Lord and my God. My Kurios, a Greek rendering of the ever-known Yahweh. The covenant name of God. My Theos, God divine. God the creator, used by Moses in the opening line of all scripture. What’s striking in this scene is the dual acceptance. Not only does Thomas accept what Jesus and others had been saying, but Jesus accepts him accepting it. To deny Jesus as God creator and covenantal lover of His people, is to deny Christianity. 

“Christianity is spelled G-R-A-C-E.”

Because of Adam’s disobedience, we are born into a cosmic war with God. In our natural state we have only one enemy, God, and there is nothing we can do to satisfy God.  Even if we did do something that would seem good enough to make peace with God, it only acts to condemn us more because we are disobedient from the inside out. Christ makes peace with God for us, apart from anything we do, and precisely because of Christ making peace, we begin to act like peace has been had. Humanity is on two roads; at birth we’re headed away from God, and at rebirth we are headed toward Him. Thinking we can turn the car around ourselves is as bold as thinking we could have satisfied God’s wrath on the cross for ourselves. We cannot because we, unlike Christ, are a blemished sacrifice and an impure priest. Dallas Willard said of Grace and effort, “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning”. To believe there is anything from your hand that makes peace between you and God, is the denial of grace, and you’re probably not a Christian.

“Trust Jesus when He said He was God. If He wasn’t, nothing else He said matters and there is no grace for Him to give.”

 

Lasting change

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Another New Year is upon us, and with it millions of resolutions. Resolutions are a Self Developmentdeclaration of self development in which we resolve to do somethings a little more or somethings a little less. Research shows that most resolutions fail within a few months. The reason may be that if it were that important to us, we would have changed before the new year. That which is truly important to us we tend to change along the way. Change happens when it’s to uncomfortable to stay the same. Self development and lasting change may be more about what we have become comfortable with.

“An uncomfortable attitude.”

In his book, “Executive Presence”, New York Times best selling author Harrison Monarth says that attitude is the fundamental element of change. In it he says, “To round out what makes up our understanding of what makes up an attitude, consider that attitudes can consist of up to three elements: cognitive (our thinking), emotional (how we feel about something), and behavioral (the actions we display)”. Monarth says you must have the right attitude to achieve your goals. I would add that you have to have the right attitude to even set adequate goals.

“What shall we do?”

In Luke 3:8, John challenges those around him not to simply talk like they were different, rather act like it. His words made it to uncomfortable to stay the same, and so they ask “Then what shall we do”. He gives several specific answers to their questions in verses 10-14 of Luke chapter 3, but the reality of what he was challenging them to do was to think about others before yourself. This challenge to change and self development a midst great inner conviction now turned to John. In the next few verses Luke explains that the people were in wonderment and expectation regarding John. Was he the Messiah? John realizes it’s time to take the long awaited back seat when he utters the words that must become reality for us all, “I am not”.

“Self development is lifelong.”

As leaders, we cannot be simply fixed on our own self development. We must be fixed on everyone’s. The leader doesn’t find that exhausting but exhilarating. This new year grasp tightly the reigns of development in yourself and others. Make it your business to know your people so well that you know what their next step of development should be. Whether it’s yourself or someone else, no one can develop a person they don’t know. Learn to love self development.

“Learn to love where you’re at, and where you’re going.”

What this dad teaches his daughters about being a woman

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Woman

I’m a father, and a guy. So what do I know about being a woman? Not as much as my wife, I can assure you, but enough to help my daughters understand what God says about being a woman.

1- Grow up!

Not into perfection, but continual maturity. Perfection goofs up and then hides it. Maturity goofs up and admits and grows from it. Create an atmosphere of forgiveness and acceptance. Don’t expect them to keep a moral compass if you keep yours on the shelf. Dad and daughter have to be growing together. No one has arrived, but we are continuing to arrive. She’s learning to be a woman, and I’m learning how to guide her as I am still learning aspects of being a man.

2- Young lady, you are more than a rib!

Who can escape the embedded and biblically wrong understanding of the “rib” in the creation story. It’s a cultural suggestion that women are less than men, and find their identity in a man. WRONG, a thousand times wrong! This Hebrew word is only used as “rib” in the creation story and once in Daniel 2:10. It most often means “side”, and by most often, I mean in Genesis too. There are two covenantal elements you don’t want to miss. Adam was put to sleep, like Abraham in Genesis 15, and a “side” of Adam was taken to make Eve. Remember again in Genesis 15 when Abraham cut the animals in two “sides”. It’s the same idea. This is covenant language, and the reality of a sleeping Adam cut into two covenant pieces, is a covenant scene that has nothing to do with a rib.

3- My daughter has a first name and it’s not O-S-C-A-R.

We must stop confusing authority with chauvinism. Adam named Eve, not simply because Eve couldn’t come up with a good one. Adam named Eve, because he was under God’s authority to do so. God named Adam, Israel, John, and Jesus. Jesus and His disciples were always being questioned about whose “name” they were doing this or that in. The disciples and Jesus were doing miracles in the name of or by the authority of the father. God presents Himself, among other things, as father and husband throughout the bible. Name speaks of authority. Listen closely here… authority has more to do with the authorities than those under it. God is the only adequate example of true authority. True authority is protective, patient, loving, kind, forgiving, freeing, and thoughtful

4- Don’t teach her to just do the opposite.

The answer to being thought of wrongly and oppressed is not to think of wrongly and oppress. The answer to getting a speeding ticket for going 60 in a 45 isn’t to go 30 in a 45. The answer for male chauvinism isn’t female chauvinism. The answer to understanding true womanhood, isn’t in just doing the opposite. So if men supposedly rule the world, the answer isn’t to simply turn it over to women. In so doing, we both miss the reality that God is ultimately in charge, and we’re designed to show His glory to the world in the way He created us.

5- Teach her how Jesus loved women.

That sounds sort of creepy, but it’s true. Eve is a shadow of the church, the true Adam’s true wife. The church is cast as the woman in the marital relationship. Esther and Deborah are types of Christ, just like all the guys. Rahab and Ruth are big time bloodline players. Gabrielle didn’t appear to a virgin Joseph, though he did appear to John, who was punished for unfaithful disbelief. Women were the first to see the resurrected Jesus. Some of Jesus closest friends were women. Women were extremely active in the young churches spread in the 1st century, and this young church suffered mightily at the hand of Rome because of its high view of women.

6- She’ll find joy in being who she was designed to be.

No, I don’t mean cleaning windows and ovens at her husband’s house. Let’s get this out-of-the-way. If you’re reading the same bible I do, the ladies we are encountering aren’t the Housewives of Jerusalem. Isaac’s wife Rebekah was a harder worker than most men today. Esther barged into the Kings court like a boss despite the potential of execution. Deborah was, as Judges 4:4 reminds us, a Prophetess and a wife, and before you think her role as Prophetess didn’t take ultimate precedence over her role as wife, would you say the same about Samson. Samson’s order of loyalty continues to be on display for us in scripture. He wasn’t loyalty to his Lord first. Subsequently he lost his hair, eyes, freedom, and ultimately his life because of it.

“Dad’s, raising your daughters to see Jesus as just another chauvinist or to find their identity in their femininity apart from Jesus both end up robbing her of joy.”

We are what we say

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Communication“If you’re alive, you’re communicating.”

We take 17,000 to 23,000 breaths a day. The majority of those breaths take little to no thought. Communication is a lot like breathing. We can control it, but most of it happens without any thought. The heart is the muscle that controls our communication. John Maxwell says in his book Winning with People, “Hurting people hurt people and are easily hurt by them”. Have you ever hurt someone or been hurt by someone in a way that didn’t involve communication? Chances are no. Remember, not communicating communicates a message of its own.

“We are what we communicate.”

Matthew recounts one of the more tense moments in Jesus ministry in Matthew 12:22-37 when some were communicating that Jesus was really a bad guy doing good things. Jesus took this opportunity to help those around understand that we are what we say and do, and what we say and do reveals a lot about us. Jesus said communication starts from within (Matt. 12:34). He went on to say it reveals who we are (Matt. 12:35), and that we are responsible for our communication (Matt. 12:37). Wise communication isn’t just about what we say, it may be more about who we are. 

“We aren’t the only communicators in the room.”

Having done countless interviews, I learned a valuable lesson about communication. People will tell you who they are, if you just listen. We wear our passions on the edge of our heart, and a listening ear is soothing to the hurting. A leader learns the art of active listening. James encouraged his readers to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19). When those around us communicate to us, they are telling us a lot about the person they are, and we must learn to love listening. Active and thoughtful listening drastically increases your chances of responding wisely.

“Communicating wisely.”

You’re going to communicate countless times this week. At times it will be smooth and effortless, and at other times it’s going to be choppy and challenging, but our goal is wise communication. Solomon teaches us a lot about wise communication. He said the wise communicator is a calm communicator (Prov. 15:1-2). He said the wise communicator is a listening communicator (Prov. 18:13), and he said the wise communicator is so invested in others that they speak right words at right times (Prov. 25:11-12).

“Communication is the life breath of relationships, and taking time toward wise communication is well worth the investment.”

Daddy, what do your tattoos mean?

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tattooDaughter: “Daddy, why do you have tattoos?”

Daddy: “They make sense of my passions.”

Daughter: “What do they mean?”

Daddy: “Well, ‘freedom’ across my stomach describes my core desire to be free, which I am only in trusting Christ. The one down the back of my right arm says in Arabic ‘evil will depart’ to remind me at the right hand of God sits Christ the second Adam who has and is subduing and ruling over the world as King, and that rule through His spirit working in His people is overcoming evil. The infinity symbol on my other arm speaks to the infinite image of God in us as human. We were built for eternity with God, but we are born heading for an eternity without Him unless we trust Jesus to make peace between us and God. The 5150 on my arm stands Jeremiah 51:50, where in we see the vengeance of God for His people against the destroyer Babylon, and that in the New Covenant, Israel is the substance of the Babylonian shadow because they destroyed the true first-born, Jesus. The nations, including Israel, are God’s New Covenant people, the true Israel. The justice and respect symbols on my calves remind me that God is Just without respect to persons, and that His justice must be satisfied. We were born law breakers. If God just let us off the hook, He himself is a law-breaker, but there is no law against taking our place as law breakers. That’s what Jesus did for us. Joshua, written down the side of my right leg reminds me of the great warrior Joshua who would have faced down the entire armada of enemies in their promised land by himself if need be, and how Jesus, who was the true Joshua warrior did have to face down those enemies alone, and won the victory for His spiritually captive world.”

Daughter: “Did they always mean those things?”

Daddy: “No sweetheart. The greatest reminder of all is that they once reflected my exchanging the truth of God for a lie, but by His grace and mercy, they have been redeemed.”

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Why you cannot just tear up the naughty list

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Naughty“Jesus didn’t tear up the naughty list, He took your place on it.”

Santa isn’t the only one with a naughty list, God has one too, but God’s list is complete with every human to have ever lived. How did they get there? You’re born on that list. You can generally do enough counteracting good to get back on Santa’s nice list. That doesn’t work for God’s list because His rule says being born on that list also makes you unable to do anything to get off of it. Even if you could manage to somehow get off the list, someone has to fill that spot on the naughty list in your place. God cannot just overlook naughtiness because that would make God naughty for not following His own rules for naughtiness which would make Him not God, and that’s not possible. You see, Jesus became naughty for us. God then saw you in Jesus’ spot on the nice list. If you were going to try to work your way off of God’s naughty list, you’d be working forever and ever. Jesus took that punishment for you, and gave you His reward for being on the nice list. Jesus didn’t leave us on that list like we deserved, He erased your name and wrote His name in its place.

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Pain discovers humanity

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Hurting“Pain reminds us of human frailty.”

We’ve all dealt with the pains of life, in its varied forms and intensities. The more people you know, the more pain you’ve seen. The cosmic irony of humanities purpose is found in the midst of pain. I type this with my six-year-old son nestled on my lap from yet another sickness. He’s been sick on and off for the past two years. What do you say when your son says, “Dad, I don’t want to be sick to death”. I volunteer at the YMCA in South Minneapolis in a gym of Somali young men. We don’t talk much until there’s a near fight, but in those moments they listen to everything I say. Some of my best conversation came in between two potential brawlers. Comfort is what we want, but the tension is what we need. It’s what we need to come to the end of our humanity.

“We become most human in comforting others in pain.”

Conflict brings us together. After 15 years of marriage, I can honestly say it was not all roses, but in the midst of our arguments early on, we found out who we were. We grew more in love. We learned quickly that marriage couldn’t be healthy and successful without our trusting Jesus to put it all back together. I’ve gone through more pain in life than I care to recall, but through all the pain, the hurt, the loss, the failures, the shattered dreams, it was the comfort of Jesus that took the shattered pieces of pain, and put me back together. The reason I care for people, is because I was first cared for (2 Cor. 1:4). Life is painful, but we all share commonality in that pain. All those challenging people you cannot stand, I guarantee you’re in their life for a reason, and I further guarantee that spite all the differences, when you get to know them you’ll share some of the same pains.

“Together, we get closest to our design. Together, we become most human.”

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Living in, not against the current

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FishFor someone whose fished in both rivers and lakes, they’ll tell you there are some big differences. There are differences for the fish as well. The river fish is in constant tension with the current. This lifestyle of tension against the current can change the fish so much that it is actually classified as a completely different type of the same kind of fish. Some in the fishing community say you can even taste the difference due to this constant tension of current. The fish is essentially changed from the inside. Fish do not necessarily fight the current, as much as they use the current. That’s were we can make our mistake in life. We will become exhausted if we are living against the current rather than with it.

“Life’s current isn’t something we fight against as much as we flow with.”

Some of us have been faced with challenges in life that change us from the inside. Changes we wish hadn’t happened at times, and at other times we’re thankful for. We spend much of our time trying to get back up-stream before the current was so bad or down stream to where the current doesn’t exist, but the reality is that God has you in the current of life you’re in for a reason. It’s really up to us to discover and nuance the specifics. No one can know those but you; however, the Apostle Paul offers the overarching explanation as to why you and I are who and where you are.

“Learn the current’s pattern, and then teach it to someone else.”

Paul opened one of his letters to the Corinthians by explaining God as a suffering comforter, and then quickly transitions that to his hearers (2 Corinthians 1:4-5). You see, we aren’t designed to be the end of God’s grace completely, rather we are designed to be a conduit for grace. You’ve heard the saying, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Well, Paul says that and then adds another piece to the puzzle. Paul says for us not just to make lemonade, but help others make it too. You and I aren’t the first fish to swim against the current and we won’t be the last, but we can be different. We can be who we were designed to be by excepting and cherishing the comfort of God during the worst of life’s currents and help others do the same.

I am, so I will

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Inclusion“God loves unpredictably in the unpredictable.”

Matthew paints one of my favorite moments in the Bible in Matt. 8:5-13. It’s the story of Jesus and the centurion. There’s something we need to know about centurion acceptance in the 1st century. They led in some of the worlds most difficult situations, and they led from the front. They were literate. They were the worst of the worst, or the best of the best depending on the vantage point. They were detested by those they occupied, most specifically in this area of the world. The were killers that commanded killers. They were consequently the most hated and feared symbol of Roman occupation. This encounter is striking to first century readers of Matthew because Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah. The Messiah was expected to set up a forever rule without occupation by outside forces (Is. 9:7, John 12:34, & Ez. 37:25), so how could the one who was supposed to oust the occupiers be helping the greatest symbol of occupation?

“I am, so I will.”

The centurion cared for those in his life, and He was now hoping Jesus would do the same. Jesus responds simply, “I will” (Matt. 8:7). Jesus said that His love was greater than our similarities, but is most vibrant in our differences. Jesus was acting out what He had previously taught (Matt. 5:46). Jesus made sense of true love when He said love isn’t exclusion, but love is inclusion. Love doesn’t keep me from you, love draws me to you. The light of Jesus’ love shines brightest in the very moments you expect Him not to love.

“Love isn’t predictable, because life isn’t.”

The scene with the centurion ends with Jesus finding the good in the centurion, and if that wasn’t bold enough, Jesus ends the encounter by showing and telling His disciples the mechanics of love is inclusion not exclusion. Love isn’t displayed in our similarities as much as it is in our differences. You’re going to meet a world of different people today, this week, this life, show them the love Jesus made sense of so long ago. Show them that differences are celebrated because loves shines brightest there.

“Loved. I am, so I will…”

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Commanding the water

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WaterJesus once amazed His disciples by commanding the “Wind and water” to calm (Luke 8:25). This is so amazing to them and us because it’s something we cannot do, but we wish we could. Imagine the scene if Jesus calms the wind and water, but it was something everyone could do. Big deal, right. Most of our stress comes from attempting things we cannot do. Our life can at times consist of our attempting to calm the winds and waters of everyday life. If you’re under a tremendous amount of stress, I’m going to bet your trying to command the water. Were all on life’s voyage, and there are plenty of things within our grasp to effect but the weather isn’t one of them. Take inventory of the things that cause you daily stress and distress. What about them can you not impact. Jesus once said that worrying changes nothing in life (Matt. 6:27). Paul said we should be praying instead of worrying (Phil. 4:6). If you cannot command the wind, you’re best bet is talking with the one who can.

Vengeance is for the experts

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Stones“Vengeance is God’s because only God can avenge.”

Paul says to the Roman Christian’s that vengeance is God’s (Rom. 12:9-21). Is that true? I mean God does still use humans to carry out recompense, right? It’s not as though God comes down and personally tends to all the vengeance due the world. So what does Paul mean to say. Well, this is covenant language, and God wants His people to act like covenant people. covenant oath participants say “I’ll do what I’m suppose to even if you don’t”. We are to act without the thought of receipt. We are to do as instructed in spite of whether others do as instructed. Paul is saying we show our covenant faith in the midst of covenant breaking.

“The most loving thing you can do is let God have His way.”

Mordecai’s death seemed certain at the hands of a wicked and proud Haman. How does a man with this much power and influence fail in such a simple plot to destroy a man. When there was no one to plead Mordecai’s case, in fact, Mordecai was totally unaware that his case needed pleading, God’s protective providence gives practicality to his great love for the righteous. King Ahasuerus’ dream provoked his searching the chronicles and finding Mordecai a hero. Haman ended up hung on his own gallows, as is the case for many wicked who plot our destruction (Esther 6-7). We who are prone to seeking our own justice, should be constantly reminded that our deeds are for and before God alone and for His glory. We need not trouble our minds over the repayment of our being wronged, only know that it is exact (Col. 3:23-25).

“Stones of vengeance are too heavy to lift…”

without crushing you and your victim. Imagine your life is like a bucket you carry with you daily. Every time bad happens, you add a stone. Every time good happens, you take out a stone. It won’t be long before your bucket is getting heavier and heavier. Carrying this weight begins to alter everything about you. Jesus not only takes our pale away, he turns those stones to bread. Just as with Joseph, we have to remember what is meant to harm us actually makes us who God wants us to be (Gen. 50:10).

“When I avenge, it’s lopsided.”

We’ve all been hurt, wronged, back stabbed, and betrayed. For us vengeance is lopsided. We just want the other person to pay, and we’re willing to expend a lifetimes worth of energy to see it through. We think we know what they did, why they did it, and that we had nothing to do with it. Generally all of those are wrong peering through our own tainted lenses. God wants something different. God wants His character to be on display. He wants His people to trust him to take care of everything. God wants covenant people to display His mercy, love, forgiveness, and grace in contrast to the hatred others may have for you. There’s peace in that. That’s a bucket that holds no stones at all.

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